Cyrus Centre gives kids without a home an option

Before Cyrus Centre Chilliwack opened its doors on Monday morning, staff were filling out the intake application for the first teen.

Les Talvio

Before Cyrus Centre Chilliwack opened its doors for the first time on Monday morning, staff were filling out the intake application at 8:30 a.m. for the first person to stay in the beautifully renovated youth shelter.

It was young homeless teen who did not have home as an option.

“That speaks to the need right there,” said Les Talvio, executive director of Cyrus Centre,  as he thanked the many partners and supporters in the community that worked in tandem to make the project happen.

The Spirit of Our Communities youth group drummed and sang a traditional Sto:lo song to welcome everyone. Talvio acknowledged being on traditional Sto:lo territory, and that the youth group had been involved in the planning of the youth-oriented facility.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for Cyrus Centre Chilliwack was at the Wellington Avenue site, and drew dignitaries from almost every level of government, as well as service providers and a big crowd of clapping community members.

“We’re going to be providing services for youth and families now 365 days of the year,” he said.

Emergency youth shelter services, will include four beds, a resource centre, advocacy, referrals, laundry and more.

“We couldn’t have done this without the support of the community; the support of the city” and more, he said.

Todd Lueck, city outreach pastor at City Life Church led the dedication prayer and said a few words. The creation of the Cyrus Centre is seen as cause for “hope,” he said, and he wants to envision great things for its residents.

“I don’t want it to be just a place where we feed young people who are hungry or need a place to sleep,” Lueck said. “I want it to be a place where we believe that some of society’s most neglected and forgotten will one day be part of changing their world.

“I want it to be a place where they can be better; that they can be amazing; that they don’t just have to just survive but they can be people who thrive in our community and in our nation, and they can change the world around them.”

Mayor Sharon Gaetz also had praise for the core aim of Cyrus Centre which is to “restore” family members to each other, or if that can’t happen, allow them to “live in grace.”

“This is a proud day for City of Chilliwack,” said Mayor Gaetz about the ribbon-cutting. She noted that Chilliwack’s overall homeless counts have “gone way, way down,” compared to past years, but 44 per cent of the last homeless count total were youth, which is a concern that will be addressed by the new facility.

After the ribbon cutting, Adam Bush walked up to one of the city councillors at the ribbon-cutting and reached out to shake his hand, reminding him they’d gone to high school together.

Bush is a resident of The Village on School Street, a Chilliwack facility that helps those who are homeless or at risk to get off the streets.

He told Coun. Jason Lum that he’d been following his political career.

“I really felt I needed to come by to show support for such a great cause,” Bush explained about attending the Cyrus Centre opening.

“Helping our youth to find resources and have safe place so they can grow and develop is so important.

“Having a support network changed my life. It’s given me a sense of self worth, knowing that even when times are rough I can get through.”

Bush is 32 now, and doing much better since moving into The Village. He is feeling stronger than he’s ever felt before and is acquiring new skills.

“I was homeless from the time I was 16. I’ve lived in tents; hotels; I’ve couch surfed. When I didn’t have stable work, it was because I didn’t have stable housing.”

A safe and stable environment makes all the difference – something Bush can personally attest to.

“This will offer a safe and pleasant place for youth to stay. They can find coping skills that will help them succeed.  In order to be productive, you have to have a place to relax and rest.”

What if Cyrus Centre had been around when he was a homeless teen?

“I thought about that a lot,” Bush replied quietly. “It’s why I came out today to be here. A lot of anxiety and depression could have been avoided if I knew I had a safe place like this.

“This would have given me the skills that I’m learning at the Village. Not much is holding me back now. I’m able to move forward and do things on my own.”