The kids are all gone now, sent on to other safe houses in Vancouver or set up with other programs to ensure they’re not at risk.
Now, the five rooms that sheltered teens in tough times are empty, after the dollars dried up Jan. 31 at Maple Ridge’s Iron Horse Youth Safe House.
“It’s a sad, sad day today,” the youth safe house said on its Facebook page on Sunday.
“Today, we are closing down the overnight shelter capacity of this house of safety.
“For those who understand the special uniqueness of Iron Horse, please observe a moment of silence and think about the struggles and successes, heartaches and victories of the many youth who came through these doors over the years.”
Stephanie Ediger, executive-director of the Alouette Home Start Society, which ran the shelter, said efforts are ongoing to develop other day or referral programs to help teens who are fleeing family conflict or abuse or just having a tough time.
Last May, about 20 people, mostly part-time and casual, were laid off from the shelter, leaving a reduced staff to manage through the last remaining months as it scrambled to find replacement funding.
When it was operating as a shelter, a monthly budget of $30,000 was required. Now, operating as a day facility, it will only need $10,000 a month to stay open with minimal staff.
That money will allow the shelter to stay open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., provide rest, food and clothing as well as access to computers, phones and life skills coaching. But Iron Horse needs help from the community to keep the money coming in to meet that budget and to keep the doors open at least in the daytime.
“We continue to operate because we think it’s important. We’re looking to the community to support us, help keep the light on at Iron Horse,” Ediger said.
“We’ve still got a vibrant, thriving program that we’ll continue to pour our energies into.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Children and Family Development has said it has the capacity and resources to provide shelter to kids who find themselves without a home.
The shelter’s website features a tab labelled Keep a Light On to show people how to donate (http://alouettehomestart.com/sample-page-2/).
The the Iron Horse struggled after the federal government changed its priority and gave most of its Homelessness Partnering Strategy funding to Housing First programs that focus on providing physical living spaces for people rather than emergency shelter programs.
Since it opened in 2005, the shelter had received federal funding for most of its $375,000 annual budget. The shelter provided an emergency place to stay for more than 1,100 kids during that time.