No youth should have to spend a night on the streets, or stay in a situation that is unsafe, said Korleen Carreras, who joined several local politicians Friday in lauding next steps in a housing solution for vulnerable youth in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
“We are grateful the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is committed to working with the communities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows,” said the school board chair.
The province announced Friday it will be working with the local and federal governments, the First Nations community, and the school district in developing a proposal for “urgently needed homes” for young people at risk or experiencing homelessness in the community.
MLAs Bob D’Eith and Lisa Beare touted the news.
“All young people in our community deserve a safe, secure, and nurturing place to call home,” said Beare, MLA for Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows. “The barriers that keep vulnerable youth from accessing housing do not need to limit their future potential, if we give them a safe home and the tools and resources to succeed.”
The provincial government has agreed to join the other community leaders already at the table in developing supportive housing for youth in this community, vowing that BC Housing staff will be working out details with the community partners.
“It has been inspiring to see so many levels of community leadership work together to advocate for this project,” said D’Eith, MLA for Maple Ridge – Mission.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child, and delivering a dedicated supportive housing option for our youth is a great example of community care.”
The new supportive housing will provide much-needed secure accommodation for at-risk youth and connect them with the resources they need, said Carreras, who was joined in welcoming the provincial involvement on this project by Katzie First Nation chief Grace George.
“I am extremely happy to have witnessed the evolution of this project. Youth of today face many challenges and as leaders we must ensure that we strive to meet their needs and protect their futures. I look forward to development of this amazing project,” George said.
Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall also heralded the province’s investment in the community’s youth.
““Far too many youth find themselves grappling with abuse, poverty, addiction, mental health, and a less than desirable family and social dynamics that can also lead to homelessness,” he said.
“Given their age and limited experience to be able to access support, they are some of the most vulnerable in our society. Providing housing, especially with 24/7 wrap-around supports, would provide them with critical necessities that have the ability to change their current and future quality of life,” Dingwall said, applauding the collaboration.
Maple Ridge’s Mayor Mike Morden was also excited to see the initiative moving forward.
“Early intervention is critical for youth at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness. We appreciate this commitment from the province to provide a safe place for young people in Maple Ridge to take on their challenges and facilitate better outcomes for their lives,” Morden said.
“The introduction of this safe house aligns with our community social safety initiative, filling an important gap in our housing continuum. We look forward to working together to ensure this much-needed resource provides the most effective support to youth in our community.”
The 2020 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver in March pegged the number of homeless people in Maple Ridge at 114, which was down by 10 from the 2017 count of 124. Of those, 79 are in shelters, and 35 are unsheltered.”
The count didn’t offer specific youth numbers for Maple Ridge, but across the region the 2020 data shows that homelessness among young people continues to decrease, with people under the age of 25 accounting for eight per cent of the homeless population this year, compared to 16 per cent in both 2014 and 2017.
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