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Community creates MY House

New centre focuses on serving youth in Mission
Sanjay Gulati

A centre dedicated to serving vulnerable youth in Mission is slated to open by the end of February.

About a dozen community organizations have been working together for the past six months to develop the Mission Youth House (MY House).

The idea emerged from the Youth Homeless Committee, said Sanjay Gulati, executive director of Mission Community Services Society (MCSS), which is taking a lead role in the project.

MY House will be located behind MCSS on Proctor Lane. The building is owned by MCSS and volunteers are renovating it to accommodate the youth centre.

The property is currently zoned for residential use and will be the subject of a public hearing Monday night to change it to commercial.

"There are a lot of project-driven initiatives for youth available in Mission, but there isn't a centre dedicated to youth," said Gulati, who noted the number of homeless youth in Mission is unclear.

According to Kirsten Hargreaves, Mission's manager of social development, youth workers last year estimated between 12 to 25 youth were "couch surfing" and didn't have stable homes to go to.

"It is estimated 45 youth have accessed overnight shelter services at Cyrus Centre in Abbotsford because Mission has no emergency shelter beds for youth.," Hargreaves added. "We need to bring something on this side of the water."

MY House will be a place at-risk youth can go to for meals, laundry and shower services. There will also be adults available to listen and offer advice.

These were the top four needs identified by youth, said Barry McLeod, a youth worker with Youth Unlimited.

Two medical rooms will also be included in MY House, but the group has yet to receive commitments from health care workers to run a medical centre.

"Health care will be a key component," said Gulati, who explained youth are more likely to seek help and treatment from a facility that caters to young people. He expects more youth who have not accessed services before will come through the doors when they open.

The goal is to support young people, give them confidence, and empower them to contribute back to the community, added Gulati.

The second phase of the project will be a shelter, but that will not be explored until after the first phase is complete.

"The shelter will be a long-term vision," said Gulati, who noted MY House is a community initiative, not an MCSS-run project.

In addition to MCSS, other key funders of MY House are Ministry of Children and Family Development and Mission Mid-Day Rotary Club.

"Rotary International has local, national and international projects," said Rotarian John Retallick, who has been doing most of the renovations on the building. "We need to put as much time as we can to local ones."

The public hearing takes place at 7 p.m. on Jan. 19 inside council chambers.

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