For the first time in its 10-year history, the North Shore Youth Safe House has stable funding from the province.
The home, run by Hollyburn Family Services Society, takes in upwards of 150 local kids fleeing abuse, neglect or instability each year and gives them a safe place to crash while they are connected with other services to help them regain a foothold in life.
On July 4, North Vancouver-Lonsdale NDP MLA Bowinn Ma announced the home would receive $100,000 in operational funding per year over the next five years.
“Housing is a basic need. Senior levels of government have a critical responsibility when it comes to ensuring that everyone in this province has access to housing, especially in times of crisis. The province has been absent in supporting the North Shore Youth Safe House for far too long,” Ma said.
The provincial funds should cover about 20 per cent of the annual budget for the home, which is staffed 24-7. The rest comes from a series of grants and donations. In the past decade, the province has only ever contributed a one-time $150,000 influx of cash. The District of North Vancouver provides the land for the home, which can take in up to six teens at any time.
Nanette Taylor, executive director of Hollyburn, said the provincial funds are “unprecedented and much needed.”
“Ten years ago we had 13-year-olds knocking on the door with nowhere to go. Ten years later, we continue to have young people reach out for a safe place to stay – somewhere they can receive shelter, nourishment and nurturing,” she said.
In 2016, the federal government announced more funding to combat homelessness but all the money was to be prioritized for people who were chronically homeless, making the safe house ineligible for federal cash it had depended on in the past.
The society scrambled to find local donors and a group of philanthropists stepped up to keep the doors open.
“The reality is if our community had not stepped in, that 13-year-old may have found a locked door instead of the refuge she needed,” she said.
More than 1,200 past residents of the home have moved on to more stable environments, Taylor said.
“We often tell our donors that investing in the youth safe house is the best return on their investment. We have seen time and time again the amazing things these youth can do with just a little support, a little direction at the right time in their lives,” she said.
In June, North Vancouver Liberal MP Jonathan Wilkinson announced his government would loosen the restrictions on how federal dollars could be spent putting local youth at risk of homelessness back in contention for aid dollars.
“Communities are best positioned to make these choices,” he said. “We’d rather do the preventative work to ensure that didn’t happen in the first place.”