A wealth of expertise in meeting the needs of the youth we serve

This year, Caroline Dufour, our Director, Strategy and Social Impact, will be celebrating a quarter century with Dans la rue. She is the first person ever to reach this level of seniority within our organization. Congratulations, Caroline!

While working toward a special education diploma, she started an internship with Dans la rue in January 1997 and was hired a few months later as a youth counsellor at the Bunker. Her keen interest in homelessness and addiction is what originally led to her involvement with our organization. At that time, Dans la rue offered two outreach services to at-risk youth: the Bunker emergency shelter and the Van.

She immediately loved the experience of being an overnight counsellor at the Bunker. The family atmosphere, that moment of earning the trust of a youth in distress, the close-knit team pulling together to deal with the anxieties and insecurities of the youth who found a safe haven there, the contact with the volunteers who would stop in at the Bunker to stock up on supplies: these are some of the memories from her early years. And they all speak to the passion she has for making sure the rights of every youth are respected.

“Back then, we were the first ones out there saying how important it was to empower these youth, which mattered a lot to Pops. We were also touting the benefits of harm reduction and respecting every individual’s pace. Pops always used to say, ‘It’s not up to you to make their decisions for them. You have to accept them the way they are.’ I like the fact that we never lectured or talked down to them.”

— Caroline Dufour

An important place in the growth of Dans la rue

Caroline has had a front-row seat to Dans la rue’s rapid growth over the years. When she first got here, the Day Centre, Family Services and Housing initiatives, along with the programs that are now running, hadn’t yet been set up. Her extensive experience after four years on night shift at the Bunker made her an ardent advocate for youth and their rights, as well as an active contributor to the creation of these services and programs.

In 2005, she developed a memorandum of understanding between the Montreal police department, youth protection services and the Bunker to make it easier to accommodate young runaways. This agreement is still in force today, making the Bunker a linchpin in the efforts to alleviate the isolation of homeless youth and give them a safe, judgment-free place to go.

An active role and strong commitment to Youth and society

After working as a coordinator, team leader and service manager at Dans la rue, Caroline was promoted to the position of Director, Strategy and Social Impact, in 2018. She also became the co-creator and coordinator of the youth homelessness prevention initiative known as Coalition Jeunes+. In this capacity, she plays an active role in a number of stakeholder consultation and engagement efforts related to runaways, addiction, mental health, social housing and more.

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“You need to stay connected with youth if you want to be able to meet their needs. It is important to make sure they have their place in society. They have rights and they must be upheld, but ultimately youth should have a say in what these rights are.”

— Caroline Dufour

Caroline has drawn on the expertise she has honed at Dans la rue to help improve best practices, legislation and action plans designed to prevent youth homelessness and curb poverty. She has developed an in-depth understanding of the needs and strengths of youth living in high-risk situations, insights into the challenges of homelessness and close relationships with Dans la rue’s partners. With drive and determination, she is helping to bring the issue of youth homelessness to a wider audience.

Her contribution to the Coalition Jeunes+

Established by Dans la rue in 2018, Coalition Jeunes+ is a Quebec-based alliance of community organizations, researchers, groups and youth. Its goal is to bring together key stakeholders in order to effect positive and lasting change in the fight against youth homelessness. The coalition’s approach is founded on protecting and advocating for the rights of youth and providing support suited to their needs.

“Prevention is what keeps us from having to deal with emergencies and high-risk situations. We desperately need to incorporate prevention into multiple spheres of our society, including schools, mental health, housing and employment. And this needs to be done with an open mind and a focus on services geared toward these young people.”

— Caroline Dufour

Caroline’s talent for getting youth to contribute to Coalition Jeunes+ and be part of this groundswell of activity to bring prevention to the fore is what led her to put together a provincial forum — in the midst of a pandemic.

The two-day Youth Homelessness Prevention Forum was attended by 50 youth aged 18 to 30 in November 2021. The Forum wrapped up with the drafting of a joint declaration for the prevention of youth homelessness by participants and members of Coalition Jeunes+. The corresponding motion was adopted unanimously by the Quebec National Assembly. The youth members of Coalition Jeunes+ were rewarded for their efforts at the Prix Leviers awards ceremony in June 2022.

Here’s to many more years making a difference at Dans la rue, Caroline! Thank you so much for all your hard work.

Watch the Prix Leviers video

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