Much has already been made about the provincial government’s recent announcement, delivered by local Liberal MLAs Doug Bing and Marc Dalton, of $1 million for the Iron Horse Youth Safe House in Maple Ridge.
Initially, it was though the youth emergency shelter was re-opening.
But that is not the case.
Housing Minister Rich Coleman, in the Legislature on Tuesday, deflected charges from NDP MLA Carole James about why Iron Horse was allowed to close with claims of funding for another project in Maple Ridge for youth. Bing and Dalton are now saying that is the one they meant, a long-term facility for kids already in ministry care.
But there is nothing to replace Iron Horse.
It closed in February 2015, when federal funding ran out, as did donations, and no one – not the province, not the city – stepped up to keep the doors of Iron Horse – which helped more than 1,100 youth since opening in 2005 – open.
So they closed.
Tony Cotroneo, community services manager with the City of Maple Ridge, said there is no longer an emergency shelter for youth in the city.
Now, if a young person flees their home, and are unwilling to return, they are referred to safe houses in Abbotsford or North Vancouver for a safe place to sleep.
That is a problem, because youth in crisis are being disconnected from their communities, Cotroneo said.
They may not return to Maple Ridge. They could connect with people who are more “high risk” than they are, he added.
Iron Horse kept them connected to their community.
Christian Cowley, with the CEED Centre, has said there is no youth shelter of any kind in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows.
“We need at least three shelters to temporarily house the 16 youth between ages 13 and 17 currently on our streets,” he said.
It’s not so much important that our MLAs were unclear on the details concerning funding for Iron House, and the status of its operation.
More so, it’s that some youth in our cities need such a place, sooner rather than later.
– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News