Tara Pozsonyi and Cheyenne Stebbe worked at the Iron Horse Youth Safe House when it learned that funding had run out in December 2014.

Iron Horse is not being replaced

Long-term housing for youth to open.

The Iron Horse Youth Safe House is not re-opening in Maple Ridge – an issue that was bandied about in the provincial legislature this past week.

But the province is opening a new long-term facility for youth in Maple Ridge, although not an emergency shelter.

B.C. Housing purchased and renovated a house at a cost of $1.035 million.

Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton said that is the facility he and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing were announcing last month, but they mistakenly referred to it as the Iron Horse facility.

It was closed by operator Alouette Home Start Society two years ago when federal funding ran out.

Dalton said the location of the new house is protected due to confidentiality issues, but this week the Ministry of Children and Families accepted a bid to operate the facility at a cost of $375,000 per year from Burnaby-based Strive Living Society.

The new project will provide long-term housing up to four youth at risk, aged 13-18, with one staff member on site 24/7, said B.C. Housing.

Youth will have access to health services, including addictions and mental health counselling, life-skills training, employment planning and support in graduating from high school.

On Monday, during question period, Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Carole James asked Housing Minister Rich Coleman where the government was two years ago when the Iron Horse facility closed.

Nelson-Creston Michelle Mungall also questioned ed Coleman, calling the reference to Iron Horse “a major flub by his back bench.”

She said the government allowing Iron Horse to close leaves youth sleeping on couches.

Coleman referenced the new Strive facility as a replacement for Iron Horse, but it provides a different service, for teens already in the care of the Ministry of Children and Families.

Tony Cotroneo, city manager of community services, said it is important for people to understand there is no youth shelter or safe house in the city.

Now, if a young person flees their home, and they are unwilling to return, they will be referred to safe houses in Abbotsford or North Vancouver for a safe place to sleep, he said.

“Unfortunately, that place is not going to be in our community, and that’s a big gap,” said Cotroneo.

That is a problem, because youth in crisis are being disconnected from their communities. They may not return to Maple Ridge, and they may connect with people who are more “high risk” than they are.

Iron Horse was a great service, Cotroneo said.

“It kept local kids in their community they are connected to.”

 

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