A youth shelter with four emergency beds for homeless youth could be opened in Chilliwack by the end of the summer.
A vacant building owned by City of Chilliwack that used to house Family Place on Wellington Avenue will be rented out to Cyrus Centre Chilliwack, according to a lease agreement the two parties just inked.
“Although the possession date has not yet been finalized, our goal is to be fully operational by late summer,” said Les Talvio, executive director of Cyrus Centre.
Some renovation work has to be completed first at the site, but they’re happy it’s over since the search for a location has been exhaustive.
Council passed a resolution to assist Cyrus reps with the hunt for a suitable space.
“We provided our criteria, and there were 19 properties considered,” he said.
The Wellington Avenue spot suits their needs in terms of size, location and layout. They liked how it’s set back from the road, and has a courtyard out back.
“It’s just ideal,” Talvio added.
Part of the reason for Cyrus coming to town, is that Chilliwack agencies identified “a crucial and urgent need” for housing services for homeless and at-risk youth.
Aside from the Cyrus Centre in Abbotsford, there are no shelter beds anywhere for at-risk youth in the vast expanse spanning from Metro Vancouver to the Okanagan.
“The addition of Cyrus Centre in Chilliwack will help address the important need for a youth shelter space and help protect one of the most vulnerable groups in our community,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz in a release. “One strong point made by the 2014 FVRD Homeless Count report was that we need to work with community partners, both government and non-government, to find innovative ways to reduce homelessness. This is just another innovative way that the City of Chilliwack is addressing that need.”
The building at 45845 Wellington Avenue will house the new youth facility, and it’s across the street from Decades Coffee Club, where a minor controversy erupted when Cyrus was considering purchasing the building a couple of months ago, which could have displaced the local coffee shop.
Now that’s all been worked out and Decades gets to remain where it is.
“We’re looking forward to have Decades as our neighbours,” Talvio said.
Cyrus Centre will be a starting point for teens in trouble.
“That meal we serve to them could be the very first point of contact for youth who are on their way to exiting the streets,” said Talvio.
The centre will provide youth with meals, shelter, clothing, advocacy, referrals, showers, laundry, life skills, employment coaching and more. The lack of services for homeless youth in Chilliwack has been stressed repeatedly by the Chilliwack Healthier Community Committee through their recent forum series, the Mayor’s Committee on Housing (2013), and Chilliwack’s Youth Shelter Steering Group (2013).
In terms of location, it was important to both the City of Chilliwack and Cyrus Centre that the centre was properly situated in the community and that commercial property is not utilized for a non-profit purpose.
“The city has been amazing throughout,” said Talvio. “I’ve actually been wowed by the initiative and cooperation shown by city officials in this process.”
The property was previously leased by Chilliwack Community Services, so a rezoning will not be required for Cyrus Centre to operate the youth facility. Under the terms of the lease, a good neighbour agreement will also be in place.
“For youth who are affected by homelessness, poverty and exploitation, this new facility means access to the services they require,” Talvio added.
“It will help them find some hope in what can be a hopeless situation.”