West Shore Youth Housing Task Force chair Bill McElroy says the group is getting closer to providing a shelter for youth on the West Shore. Two portable classrooms have been purchased and will be converted into living spaces. Now they just need a suitable location to put the shelter.

Portable classrooms will help West Shore kids at risk of being homeless

Ideally, portables will go somewhere near Belmont Secondary school and Westshore Town Centre Mall

Homeless youths on the West Shore are one step closer to having a roof over their heads and a better chance to improve their situation.

The West Shore Youth Housing Force has secured the purchase of two portable classrooms that it hopes to move to a location in Langford and renovate into temporary shelters for homeless youth.

Now they just need a place to put them.

Task force chair Bill McElroy said ideally they want to locate the portables somewhere near Belmont Secondary school and Westshore Town Centre Mall, a common hangout spot for youth.

The group is looking at options to buy, rent or use donated land.

Once the 7-by-12 metre  portables are situated, the group will renovate them to create bedrooms as well as a kitchen and living space.

When finished, the portables will house six to eight youths.

For at least five years now there has been no reliable shelter for youth who are unable to go home at night.

There are shelters in the City of Victoria, but nothing on the West Shore.

McElroy said it’s common to have youths sleeping alongside the Galloping Goose Trail or by Langford Lake. Couch surfing is another common option.

Of those youths who do end up homeless, approximately 60 to 80 per cent are fleeing some form of abusive environment at home, said McElroy.

“A lot of people say ‘well why don’t those kids just go home.’ Well, it’s not quite that simple,” McElroy said.

It’s estimated that on any given night in the West Shore there are around 20 youths without housing. Getting those youths help early can prevent them from sinking further into a bad situation, potentially ending up struggling with addictions or involved in the sex trade, said McElroy.

“If we can get them off the streets, get them into some secure housing for a year or two while they finish school or get job training, then they’re more likely to succeed in life.”

The intention of the group is still to set up a permanent shelter in the same area. Organizers intend to either buy a house or construct a purpose-built shelter that will be a consistently available for youth. Once that’s established the intention is to turn the service over to a youth agency and the task force will disband.

The group purchased the classrooms through the provincial government’s auction. Money from fundraising will be used to help pay for the classrooms and the renovations.

The task force is also still currently seeking funding to help cover its projected $150,000 annual operating expenses, which includes running the portables.

Anyone with any ideas or offers on a location to place the portables is asked to contact McElroy at bill.mcelroy@shaw.ca. To donate, call the Pacific Centre Family Services Association at 250-478-8357.

kwells@goldstreamgazette.com

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