Aimee recently won Eva’s Anti-Oppression Award.

Aimee Le Lagadec is a housing support worker at Eva’s. Housing support workers assist homeless youth in preparing for independent living, providing counselling and support and helping youth identify housing goals and access stable, long-term housing. Aimee won Eva’s recent Anti-Oppression Award. She recalls a time she accompanied a very sick young woman to a hospital emergency room. The young woman was nearly turned away because of her uncertain immigration status, but Aimee advocated on her behalf and was able to help her get the health care she needed. Aimee points to that moment as a time she became especially aware of how her know-how and access turned into a life-saving tool for a young person who truly needed it. What would’ve happened if Aimee wasn’t there?

That story also serves as an example of how important it is to recognize the day-to-day power imbalances that impact the lives of youth experiencing homelessness. Research demonstrates how youth homelessness is not just an “individual” issue. It’s a problem rooted in the way our society functions and in the needs young people have and don’t always get support for. It means that real change must address the individual as much as it addresses “the way things work” in our world.

“Anti-oppression is a lifestyle and commitment for me, not just a requirement of my work with homeless youth.”

That’s no small task.“I’ve learned to be very conscious of the space that I take up and of how my privilege affects me and the people around me,” Aimee says. “I like to believe that I am constantly working to stay committed to learning about my privilege as well as my own marginalization, as well as how my privilege works in a variety of contexts.”

Aimee suggests other ways someone supporting youth can strive for equity and inclusion and push toward that, “shift of power.” For example, she avoids making assumptions about the youth and instead asks them directly what they need. She also makes herself conscious of the resilience young people show in even the direst of circumstances, noting that it’s more useful to identify the strengths a person brings and build on them, rather than focus on deficits.

In addition to the importance of constantly educating herself on the needs and realities of diverse youth, Aimee stresses the importance of listening to and validating youth, especially those who face high levels of marginalization. It’s the first step to building trust and strong coalitions with young people, which is absolutely necessary for lasting change. “Anti-oppression is a lifestyle and commitment for me,” Aimee says, “not just a requirement of my work with homeless youth.”

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