As the number of families grows on the West Shore, so to does the need for temporary housing for troubled youth.
The Boys & Girls Club Services of Greater Victoria is putting out the word it is looking for homes on the West Shore willing to temporarily house youth in need of a place to stay.
“These are pretty high-needs, vulnerable kids,” said youth and family services manager Ellie James. “You can’t heal from trauma until you feel safe and secure.”
Langford resident Laurie Falk takes part in the program for young mothers. Her home has an extra suite, so she gives either pregnant youth or young mothers, typically between 16 to 21 years old, a place to stay. The youth come into the program during pregnancy and stay for one year.
“I love it,” Falk said. “This is something that I’ve actually wanted to do for a very long time. I’m happy to have this opportunity to do it.”
So far Falk has hosted one youth and said there hasn’t been any problems, only benefits. She said she has enjoyed making friends with other care home parents and has found helping out in the community rewarding.
“We think of our gal as just an extension of our family. … You have to understand young people, perhaps understand what it could be like for them.”
On the West Shore the need is primarily for housing for youth dealing with either addiction, youth justice or sexual exploitation.
“They come into our program with the idea that they’re moving on somewhere,” James said.
The ideal length of time is six months. After that the youth are expected to move on, either back to their families, to self-sufficiency or, at times, into foster care.
“They are kids who have had a hard time,” James said. “On the other side of it, they’re just kids. They’re just kids who need a safe, secure place to live and we want families who are willing to … establish a relationship with them.”
The ideal homes are those with flexible schedules, with occupants who like youth and are open to working with them. The newly retired are considered ideal participants, but all ages and stages of families take part.
Anyone interested must go through a screening process and then ongoing monitoring. All youth involved also have a family worker they work with and on-call support is available from the Boys and Girls Club at all times.
Homes which take part in the program are paid a retainer for being available and a per diem based on the expectations of what housing the youth will require.
Anyone interested in taking part is asked to call Erin Dusdal at the Boys and Girls Club at 250-686-9114 or visit bgcvic.org.
The West Shore Youth Housing Task Force continues to seek funding to establish a youth shelter on the West Shore.
Chair Bill McIlroy said there are plenty of houses available, but the startup and operating funds must be in place before anything can move forward.
“There’s lots of houses we can rent, there’s lots of places we can buy, but it’s the startup,” McIlroy said. “I’m optimistic. Things are moving along in the right direction, although much slower than I’d like.”
The group is talking with a foundation in Vancouver over the next couple of weeks in the hopes of securing some more funds.