A privately funded youth shelter in Downtown Vancouver is more than doubling its number of beds to help serve more than 400 homeless youth who were turned away from its doors multiple times last year.
In May, Covenant House Vancouver will expand the size of its shelter to 54 beds, up from 22 beds.
“To look a young person in the face, who is telling us that they want our help — that they need our help — and we have to turn them away is heartbreaking,” said Krista Thompson, executive director of Covenant House Vancouver.
The expansion and three-year operating costs total $5 million, an amount covered by various provincial ministries and $250,000 from VANOC as a “lasting legacy beyond 2010.”
After the three years, the organization’s 45,000 private donors will cover operating costs. Thompson said the expansion would go a long way toward meeting the needs of homeless youth in Vancouver.
“Covenant House is the Ritz of shelters. It has everything you need, all in one spot,” said Sheldon Vance, 32, a former crystal meth dealer and recovering drug addict, who was in and out of the shelter eight or nine times in his early 20s.
Vance, who hitchhiked into Vancouver from Pincher, Alta in 1998, was shot and stabbed while dealing drugs and living on Vancouver’s streets.
Vance, who now lives in Kelowna with his wife and two young children, has created his own charity that advocates for street youth and aims to follow the Covenant House model. “It’s a great place for kids to try and turn their lives around,” he said.