Youth housing expansion proposed

Nelson Community Services is getting all the pieces together for a proposal to BC Housing that could lead to an expansion of youth housing.

Nelson Community Services is getting all the pieces together for a proposal to BC Housing that could lead to an expansion of youth housing.

“We’ve been in touch with BC Housing, and they keep asking where the proposal is. So we decided to finally get down and get it ready,” said Lena Horswill, executive director of Nelson Community Services.

The proposal that came before city council Monday was the development of a second site, which would accommodate youth housing, above the Nelson and District Youth Centre.

“This location would be ideal for the proposed services we would like to provide,” said Christine Vanlerberg with Nelson Community Services. “It is directly across the street from Cicada Place, our main office is just down the street in the Community First Health Cooperative, there are recreational services in the Youth Centre and down the street at the complex, the Youth Employment Resource Centre is in the building and the Freedom Quest office is located downstairs.”

She said demand for youth housing exceeds the units available.

“Youth can stay for up to two years, and because of that, spots don’t open up regularly, and the waitlist continues to grow,” said Vanlerberg.

The waitlist for Cicada Place has steadily grown. Over the past four years it has been sitting at over 30, and within the last six months topped out at 38.

Horswill said they are trying to get ready because when funding becomes available from BC Housing, things will move quickly.

“We’re very familiar with the term ‘shovel ready,’” said councillor Robin Cherbo about the proposal.

An engineering report done for the proposed site in 1995 indicated another floor would be possible with minor alterations to the existing structure.

“The services that we would propose to offer would be emergency housing for six to eight youths,” said Vanlerberg. “We would have individual, dorm-style rooms and 24 hour staffing for this program.”

She also said the program design would be similar to Cicada Place, which would include a no drug or alcohol policy, mandatory life skills training and participation in school or work.

Horswill said  developing residential facilities for the area could also help address the need for second stage housing for women who leave transition housing.

“There is such a lack of housing of all kinds. We are open to any ideas about this,” she said.

Cicada Place has become a model for successful and effective supported youth housing.

“We have been recognized by the federal government as a best practice service and have been acknowledged provincially for the success of our program,” said Vanlerberg.

She said Joyce Dahms-Whiffen, co-ordinator of youth services, has gone to Vancouver at the request of BC Housing to talk about Cicada Place.

Council approved in principle the proposed use of the space above the Nelson and District Youth Centre.

Vanlerberg said council’s decision will allow them to move forward with pursuing possible funding partners and preparing an in-depth proposal.

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