On Friday morning, Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) unveiled plans for an emergency youth shelter for east London.
YOU has chosen a 1.6-acre plot of land on Clarke Road, just south of Oxford Street, to house the thirty-bedroom shelter which is estimated to be between 10,000 and 13,000 square feet.
“Basic human values say we need to support these sort of things,” said YOU president Paul Digby during Friday’s unveiling at the shelter`s future site.
Addressing the youth who will benefit from the future shelter, Digby added, “You’re in very good hands.”
On average, YOU serves 3,600 youth in London and Strathroy. Executive director for YOU Steve Cordes told 980 CFPL their voices were kept in mind when designing the shelter.
“That’s a really important part of the process,” said Cordes. “We have focus groups around some housing issues… there’s constant input through all of those channels into what should this thing be.”
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Once a homeless youth herself, Courtney Bain is happy to see plans for the shelter on Clarke Road. Bain spent six years with YOU. She credits the organization with saving her, helping her find a job and get an apartment.
She said it’s important to have a shelter away from the influences of downtown London.
“A lot of youth are like me when they start out. They want change, but you start hanging out with older people, there’s influences there, and you just start maybe going down the wrong path.”
Bain added that the privacy of the shelter, which will include a courtyard along with a large backyard area, helps youth going through what she experienced less than a decade ago.
“They’re not going to feel like they’re being watched. They’re not going to feel like they’re being judged,” said Bain speaking to the importance of a safe and comfortable space for homeless youth. “They’re already stressed out.”
A trio of abandoned homes sit on the 1.6 acre plot of land alongside Clarke Road. YOU intends to tear them down to make way for the new shelter.
“We’re hoping to get a shovel in the ground before the end of this calendar year and then have the project open to the community by the fall of 2019,” said Cordes.
The city will provide a portion of the funding required through London’s Homeless Prevention System. YOU will launch a fundraising campaign to help pay the rest.
Information open houses have been scheduled for June 27 and July 9 in order to receive community feedback on the facility’s design.
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