Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada (PressExposure) January 15, 2007 -- Winnipeg youth in need of emergency shelter and crisis counseling will be left out in the cold when Macdonald Youth Services is forced to close its Youth Resource Centre (YRC) at the end of March due to the loss of federal funding.
The YRC provides a safe place to sleep for youth aged 12 to 17, most of whom are in conflict with their parents or foster parents, or in other untenable living situations. Last year, the eight-bed shelter at 161 Mayfair Avenue provided close to 1400 overnight stays for more than 500 boys and girls. In addition, the YRC provided 24-hour support services to an additional approximately 1600 at-risk youth aged 12 to 20. More than one third of the children served were age 14 or younger.
The shelter has an annual operating budget of approximately $950,000 and is funded by the federal and provincial governments and the United Way. The Government of Canada has advised Macdonald Youth Services it will no longer provide its share of funding, effective April 1. Verbal and written requests to senior Manitoba minister Vic Toews, for a meeting to discuss the YRC, have gone unanswered.
"Yesterday, federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day arrived in Winnipeg to announce community groups can receive up to $500,000 each for initiatives to keep kids out of gangs," says Macdonald Youth Services Executive Director Erma Chapman. "But at the same time, they are discontinuing a well-established, essential service for teens that we know is effective at reducing youth involvement in crime. It's clear that what the federal government gives with one hand, it takes away with the other."
Chapman explains the YRC actually saves public money. "For example, it would cost Manitoba Child and Family Services approximately three times as much to place a teen in a hotel overnight. In addition, the counseling services we provide help many kids avoid coming into care or custody, thereby saving more dollars that would be spent on youth corrections and child welfare services."
Staff at the YRC focus on de-escalating situations and working with youth and their parents or guardian to resolve conflict and develop a long-term plan. Chapman says that without a safe place to turn to, kids in crisis may become destructive toward others or toward themselves, by getting involved in gangs and sexual exploitation or committing suicide.