Youth in crisis Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows again have a safe haven.
Teens aged 15-18 can access 24/7 overnight accommodations at a new Youth Emergency Shelter (YES) in Maple Ridge.
The announcement of the two-year pilot project was made by Mitzi Dean, B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development, at the Greg Moore Youth Centre on Wednesday afternoon.
She explained the facilities will be for youth in crisis, or who are at risk of harm or homelessness. It will be operated by St. Leonard’s Youth and Family Services (STLEO), who have youth programs in Burnaby, Coquitlam and Surrey. The YES pilot aims to help young people address issues such as family conflict, housing instability, homelessness, and mental health and substance use.
“We know that youth who have nowhere to go during times of need are at increased risk of substance use, exploitation and homelessness,” said Dean. “The Youth Emergency Shelter means these youth have somewhere to feel safe and secure when they have no alternative.”
There has been no such facility in Maple Ridge since the federally funded facility, the Iron Horse Youth Safe House, closed it’s five-room overnight facility at the end of 2014. Ottawa withdrew funding.
READ ALSO: Iron Horse closes beds
“We all knew there was this gap,” said Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith, and he and Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MLA Lisa Beare acknowledged numerous local people who advocated for a new youth shelter. These included former School District 42 Trustees Mike Murray and Susan Carr, Christian Cowley of the CEED Centre, his late colleague Teesha Sharma, and many others.
“MLA Lisa Beare and I, along with many people in the community, advocated for a youth emergency shelter to give children and youth in need a safe place to go,” said D’Eith. “We are so pleased that Maple Ridge was chosen to pilot this work.”
Dean said the city was chosen based on need, and the advocacy from the community.
The announcement was made in front of 35 to 40 people, many who work with youth in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
“This shelter is an investment in the future of our youth, and the future of our community,” said Mayor Dan Ruimy, who called it a lifeline for those feeling abandoned, neglected or hopeless.
“We are pleased to be able to extend our supports for youth in the Maple Ridge community through this innovative pilot,” said Renata Aebi, executive director of STLEO. “Our goal is to be a safe space that meets the urgent needs of struggling youth and connect them to appropriate supports.”
Beds will be available on a self-referred basis for up to two weeks at a time. Youth do not need to have previous experience with government care or the ministry to access services.
More information is available online at stleo.ca.