The managers of the Iron Horse Youth Safe House are taking their plea to the public, to raise enough money to stay open at least over Christmas and into January.
“We have $5,000 in funds. We’re looking for $20,000 more. It just makes good sense to find the funds to extend it for another month,” said Stephanie Ediger, executive-director of the Alouette Home Start Society, which runs the youth safe house.
The shelter’s monthly budget is $25,000, needed for upkeep, groceries and 24-hour a day staffing.
“They are five teenagers. They eat a lot.”
The safe house, which opened in central Maple Ridge in 2005, no longer qualifies for funding after the federal government adopted its Housing First policy, which focuses on giving people physical living spaces before providing other services.
The society could have applied for a smaller amount of Homelessness Partnering Strategy funding for another year, but Ediger said it didn’t meet the criteria.
With the main source of its funding, about $365,000, no longer there, and interim grants exhausted, the Iron Horse is to close its doors Dec. 31.
“But Dec. 31 is probably the worst day of the year to do that,” Ediger said. “We’re especially concerned about the youth 16 and under.”
The shelter is also used by kids from outside of the community, but more than a third of those who stay at the shelter are from Maple Ridge.
Before Iron Horse opened in 2005, homeless kids had to go to a safe house in Vancouver. That often derailed plans for family mediation and schooling, as well as introducing them to a more street-entrenched lifestyle, the society said.
Ediger said the goal is to raise enough money to stay open until Jan. 31, while in the meantime staff will find a way to re-invent the program so it qualifies for funding.
So far, the society has provincial funding for a third of its future operating costs for six months, providing the federal government and society raise the other two thirds.
“Our board is committed to keeping the shelter open [until Jan. 31]. We’re committed to raising that amount,” said Ediger.
The appeal is being made to the public, but people are also asked to contact Conservative MP Randy Kamp and Liberal MLAs Doug Bing and Marc Dalton.
People who want to donate can go the website alouettehomestart.com or can send a cheque made out to AHSS or Iron Horse Youth Safe House to No. 101-22207 Brown Ave., Maple Ridge, B.C., V2X 9B5.