Chilliwack is in dire need of emergency shelter beds for homeless youth.
Now it looks like service providers from Abbotsford might be answering the call.
Reps from Cyrus Centre plan to offer homeless teens a safe place to stay in Chilliwack by spring of 2014.
“Right now from Abbotsford, we offer the only emergency shelter beds available for youth between Metro Vancouver and the Okanagan,” said Les Talvio of Cyrus Centre Abbotsford.
Kids get a meal, and a clean, warm place to sleep, shower or do their laundry at the Cyrus Centre.
Cyrus officials were approached by local reps earlier this year to make a “community table” presentation explaining what they do and the details of their particular model, to see if it might be appropriate for Chilliwack to replicate.
Homeless youth, or those at risk of homelessness, are given temporary stays in the four-bed Cyrus Centre shelter. Within weeks of that initial meeting with Chilliwack reps, Talvio said they were asked about the prospect of running a similar youth shelter here.
“Our board met to discuss what it would look like, and we decided to go forward and open emergency beds for youth in Chilliwack.”
A Chilliwack resident, Talvio says he’s been working with the disenfranchised since his 20s, and is proud of the fact that teens “take ownership” of the space in Abbotsford.
“Every single one has a story.”
They’re free from exploitation and safe to turn their lives around.
Although Cyrus officials come from a faith background as individuals, they don’t require adherence by the youth. The organization has won diversity awards for their “accepting” environment.
“There is no chaplain service. It’s who we are as individuals. We feed them because they are hungry.”
The goal of a shelter stay is to help nurture the young people, and help them achieve stability, or even restoring the family, but that’s not always possible, he says.
Cyrus also offers 10 beds for extreme weather episodes each winter, in conjunction with City of Abbotsford.
“The youth have to be clean, and they have to be willing to work on a plan that will improve their lives,” he says.
How long they stay, depends on their circumstances.
They expect all Cyrus annual operating funds to be raised within the community in advance, and the budget will be determined by the site they eventually choose for the shelter.
If they do successfully set up a shelter operation for youth here, it will have been by specific request from those who work with homeless youth in the community, he said.
Their existing operation is financially stable and they’ve never been unable to pay shelter bills in the nine years they’ve been open.
“For it to really work here, it needs to be fully supported by the community,” said Talvio.
A Dessert Banquet and fundraiser is set for Nov. 15 at the Promontory Main Street Church, 7 p.m. at 9325 Main St. RSVP to www.cyruscentredessert.eventbrite.ca or contact Rebecca at 604-792-0694.