Proponents of an emergency youth shelter are pushing ahead to find a new location in Chilliwack.
The topic exploded on social media Friday in reaction to the owner of Decades Coffee Club announcing that the coffee shop would either have to move or change locations by June, to make room for the incoming youth shelter.
As a result of the uproar that ensued, those plans have in fact changed, according to project proponents, Les Talvio, executive director of Cyrus Centre, and Todd Lueck, director of City Life Centre.
They issued a joint press release Saturday confirming they won’t be pursuing the Wellington Avenue property, where Decades leases space, for a youth shelter facility.
“We did not expect the push-back we received on this,” Lueck noted.
They do want to clear the air for Chilliwack about their intentions.
“Our first objective is restoration,” said Lueck, about the youth in relation to their families, and the need to provide safe housing, free from sexual exploitation, for youth who are homeless or at-risk.
They made it clear the youth shelter service is not intended to be an extension of the City Life Church as has been erroneously suggested.
Lueck is City Outreach pastor with City Life Church, and director of City Life Centre, which is focused on community efforts to become “a more integral part” of the city. The Chilliwack church was formerly known as Glad Tidings Church, and is known for its Christian school, Highroad Academy.
The building on Wellington Avenue had been for sale for months, and the shelter proponents chose it as the Cyrus Centre Chilliwack location after months of careful study.
Part of the reason for the Cyrus coming to town, is that Chilliwack agencies have 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 available for at-risk youth anywhere in the vast expanse from the Metro Vancouver to the Okanagan.
“We wanted to start off here on the right foot. This is a community we love and support,” said Talvio.
Although Cyrus officials come from a faith background as individuals, they don’t require adherence by the youth shelter clientele, Talvio underlined in his first interview with The Progress back in November.
In fact, Cyrus Centre, an independent not-for-profit organization, has won diversity awards for their “accepting” environment.
“There is no chaplain service at the shelter,” he said. “We feed the kids because they are hungry.”
The goal of a shelter stay is to help nurture the troubled young people, and help them achieve stability in their lives.
Talvio, a Chilliwack resident, has worked with disenfranchised youth since his 20s.
“We heard the message from the community loud and clear (about the coffee shop location).
“But the real good news story here, that seems to be getting lost is the generosity of one of the local churches, City Life, which is stepping up to purchase the property for the Cyrus Centre to set up the shelter,” Talvio said.
The reason for the decision to back down on the TUP stems from the “strong support for maintaining existing commercial space downtown,” and a desire to work closely with the community. So City Life Church reps, in conjunction with Cyrus officials, are formally withdrawing the application from City Hall for a temporary use permit for the Wellington Avenue building.
“We remain completely committed to seeing Cyrus Centre open its doors in our community,” wrote Lueck and Talvio in the joint press release.
“It is our strong hope that the public will shift their focus toward the good aspects of this story: Cyrus Centre provides for a very real and identified need in Chilliwack.”
Lueck emphasized there’s been a “groundswell” of community support for the idea of Cyrus Centre being established in Chilliwack.
“The idea has been embraced by community service agencies, government, individuals, businesses and more. People need to understand there has been a tremendous rallying toward this project.”
A fundraiser that featured a dessert buffet was hugely successful in November.
But the search is on again for a new Cyrus shelter location. Key priorities include: proximity to youth in need, few residential neighbours as possible, move-in readiness, proximity to related services, building layout, price point, distance from existing services to the adult homeless population, and more.