© 2019 André P. Grace

The Community Health Empowerment Wellness (CHEW) Project 

Serving the greater Edmonton area, the Chew—community~health~empowerment~wellness—Project started in the fall of 2014. It began as an initiative to help address higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), notably HIV. In 2013, Alberta Health had reported that age-gender-specific rates of newly diagnosed HIV cases among those aged 15 to 29 in the province were disturbingly high. In Edmonton, consecutive 2010 to 2012 rates as well as the 2013 annualized rate of HIV were the highest in the province. High rates of STIs remain a dire problem in Edmonton.

As the Chief Public Health Officer’s Reports Unit indicated in 2011, homeless and street-involved sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth and young adults compose a particularly vulnerable group, with significantly higher rates of such sexual risk behaviors as unprotected sexual intercourse, survival sex, and reduced condom use. In Edmonton, young men who have sex with men and trans-identified females, with some identifying as heterosexual, are two groups particularly affected. From the beginning Chew workers found that individuals accessing the project required services that not only focused on their sexual health, but also on their mental health and individual and social needs. Taking this into account, the Chew Project uses a wraparound approach to provide intervention, outreach, resources, and supports to vulnerable and displaced SGM youth and young adults who have been historically ignored, and thus largely underserved, by social institutions including human/social services, healthcare, education, and justice. 

 

The Chew Project’s focuses on collective and cohesive problem solving, which is key to our model emphasizing the 3 C’s: comprehensive health education and outreach, community support services, and compassionate policing. The C3 model emerged from principles shaping the resilience typology I developed using research since the 1970s, which is discussed in my book Growing into Resilience: Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Canada (Grace, 2015). This model considers individuals’ experiences of stressors and risk taking as it places emphasis on asset building intended to support individuals’ survival and their health and wellness. Desired positive outcomes include having SGM young people build a support system and demonstrate indicators of thriving. For more information on the Chew Project, please visit https://chewprojectyeg.org/

This is an example of the winter footwear worn by many street-involved and homeless SGM youth and young adults all year around. The youth wearing these sneakers stopped by the Chew office to try and dry them out a bit since they were soaking wet. On the winter day this photo was taken, it was -40°C with the wind chill. 

Useful references:

Grace, A. P. (2015). Part II with K. Wells. Growing into resilience: Sexual and gender minority youth in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.


Grace, A. P. (2018). Alberta bounded: Comprehensive sexual health education, parentism, and gaps in provincial legislation and educational policy. Canadian Journal of Education, 41(2), 472-497.


Grace, A. P. (2018). Full recognition of sexual and gender minority youth in Canadian schooling: Matters of access, adjustment, and accommodation. In W. Smale (Ed.), Perspectives on Canadian educational law and policy (pp. 243-263). Burlington, ON: Word & Deed Publishing.


Grace, A. P. (2017). Difference is: Sexual and gender minority youth and young adults and the challenges to be and belong in Canada. In S. Carpenter & S. Mojab (Eds.), Youth in/as crisis: Young people, public policy, and the politics of learning (pp. 95-106). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.