Alouette Home Start Society executive director Stephanie Ediger says the youth shelter could still close by March 31.

Alouette Home Start Society executive director Stephanie Ediger says the youth shelter could still close by March 31.

Ridge council asked to help youth safe house

Grant funding uncertain for emergency shelter that houses at-risk youth in Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge council has been asked to help keep open the doors of the Iron Horse Youth Safe House so kids in trouble still have a place to go.

The fate of the house, which takes care of kids at risk, remains uncertain after staff first learned they could lose their federal money that keeps the place running.

“It’s an information vacuum,” Stephanie Ediger, with the Alouette Home Start Society, told Maple Ridge council Monday.

District staff have recommended that council write MP Randy Kamp seeking six months’ transitional funding and more details.

“Part of what we’re struggling with is, how do we make plans for dealing with the enormous changes, that the changes in the funding are going to have everywhere?”

Kamp says the new Housing First priorities don’t kick in until next year, leaving existing funding unchanged.

That was confirmed by Employment and Social Development Canada, which said the implementation date is April 1, 2015. After that, 65 per cent of Homelessness Partnering Strategy funds have to go to Housing First-type projects.

The department also said that transitional funding will be available for this year to help communities make the switch to Housing First programs.

“It’s really good news to hear there’s another year,” Coun. Bob Masse added later.

But Masse said the Housing First model, “has very little fit in communities like ours.

“Housing First is a really good way to get people who are completely disconnected … [and addicted] into some form of housing.”

Housing First focuses on moving chronically or temporarily homeless people from the streets and emergency shelters into permanent housing, while offering support for addictions and mental illnesses.

However, it requires substantial followup support to provide related services to those people who now have homes, Masse said.

Currently, the Iron Horse Youth Safe House receives $365,000 annually from the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, a program of Employment and Social Development Canada.

The renovated house has five beds and kids between 13 and 18 years old can stay for up to a month.

A Maple Ridge staff report says a key concern is there’s been no word from the government that previous funding is in place and, thus, the Metro Vancouver steering committee on homelessness can’t issue a call for grant proposals.

The Home Start society has to apply to Metro Vancouver homelessness steering committee for the funding.

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie said it’s a “poor policy shift,” to move towards Housing First projects.

Without such a house, the provincial government could have to pay social workers to supervise kids at risk as they stay in hotels, she added.

Coun. Michael Morden asked if the safe house could readjust its services so that it could qualify for Housing First money.

But Masse doubted that. Senior governments need to know the shelter needs to be supported in its present form, he said.

The Safe House runs on a total budget of $375,000, allowing it to staff the home 24 hours a day and to pay operating and food costs.

Maple Ridge has provided the lot on which the house sits and provides a grant to cover the property taxes for the house.

About a third of the kids who stay at the shelter are from Maple Ridge, with the remainder from the region.

Council will decide what to do at a later meeting.