A funding allocation from the city will help a local children’s mental-health organization hire an addictions counsellor to support homeless youth.
The City of Calgary said Thursday that more than $105,000 it provided to Wood’s Homes will allow the non-profit group to further its outreach to at-risk children.
The funding is part of a $3-million commitment the city made to 19 local non-profits earlier this year to help tackle mental-health and addiction issues. Registered non-profit organizations in Calgary were eligible to apply for the funding in October 2018.
Sylvia MacIver, a spokeswoman for Wood’s Homes, said statistics show there are anywhere from 300 to 400 homeless people under the age of 18 in Calgary.
“We are quite confident there are many, many more young people who are borrowing a friend’s couch or a cousin’s bed for a while, and they’re at risk,” she said.
“So what happens is they fall into bad habits and practises on the street and the cycle begins . . . Our real purpose is to get them off the street and on the way to a better life.”
Last year, city council earmarked $25 million to develop a citywide strategy on mental health and addiction. The community action strategy aims to address mental health, addiction and social disorder, with short, medium and long-term goals.
“We all know that mental health is a significant and broad issue,” said Melanie Hulsker, acting director of Calgary Neighbourhoods.
Hulsker said the city hopes its investments will lead to safer communities, reduced crime and reduced harm to those suffering from mental health and addictions issues.
The facility, called the EXIT Youth Hub, is home to the organization’s “street services.” It provides addictions and mental-health counselling, medical treatment and employment training for at-risk youth “who come to us looking for a way out,” according to MacIver.
With 11 apartments on its second floor, it also provides temporary accommodation for about six months at a time to homeless youth, who are supervised and given meals, access to a shower and laundry services.
It’s a service model that is unique to Western Canada, according to MacIver.
“We’ve had hundreds go through the building already in the short time that we’ve been open,” she said, adding 85 per cent or more have substance-abuse issues.
But with new city funding and the ability to hire an addictions specialist, the organization hopes to further bolster its supports.
“It’s very non-judgmental,” MacIver said of the program. “Sometimes it takes a while for these young people to open up and say, ‘OK, I need help.’”