Homeless Youth Receive a Hand Up at Salvation Army Shelter

by John McAlister
Categories: Feature
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salvationarmy_suttonshelterAt The Salvation Army Sutton, Ontario, Youth Shelter, male and female clients receive a hand up rather than a hand out.
The shelter’s emergency and transition housing for homeless youth has served more than 800 people, ages 16 to 26, since its doors opened in March 2006.

“Our shelter takes in homeless youth 24 hours-a-day and we operate every day of the year,” says Director, Rochelle Saunders. “Youth come here for many reasons that include broken homes, fleeing abusive situations, being ordered to leave due to discipline issues, or when they wear out their welcome couch-surfing from place to place with friends. There is no stereotypical reason for a young person to need our services. There are more homeless youth than the public realizes and they find shelter wherever they can. Our beds are consistently full.”

The renovated elementary school provides 16 short-term emergency beds for men and women. Youth can also apply for a long-term stay of up to one year in the transitional housing program while they are upgrading their skills and finding suitable employment. This program has 10 private bedrooms with shared kitchenettes and a common living room. The main kitchen, lounge and laundry room is accessible to all youth. Transitional clients contribute to rent through the Rent-Geared-to-Income program and learn how to master the skills they need to live independently. The transitional program also allows time and opportunity for mentoring youth and encouraging them to make healthy choices as they become active members and assets in the community.

Resources at the multi-service centre include personal counselling, life-skills programs, anger-management programs, employment and educational supports, housing supports, recreational programs, outreach and volunteer opportunities, academic upgrading and chaplaincy services. The centre is also a meeting place for Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous and many youth tap into these services. Recently a breakfast club was initiated to start the day on a healthy note. Residents receive a full-course breakfast seven days a week.
“Volunteers are always needed,” says Saunders. “Community members assist us in areas such as hair cutting, sports and recreation, mentoring, tutoring, and preparing and serving at the breakfast club. We rely heavily on our volunteers as well as the generosity of the public.”

To volunteer with The Salvation Army visit http://www.salvationarmy.ca/volunteer/
Last year, across Canada, 6,370 shelter, addictions, detox and mental health beds were provided by The Salvation Army each night for vulnerable men, women and families.