The Youth Winter Inn has opened its doors for the season and will provide a place for those in need aged 14-17 to stay.
The program gives youth who are under the influence or are homeless a place where they can go to stay warm during cold nights. In 2013, the Youth Winter Inn helped nearly 50 youth by providing shelter or help to return home or find alternative housing options.
“Youth who have nowhere to go in the cold winter months can come to the Youth Winter Inn to meet with friendly staff where we can provide them with food and a warm, safe place,” said David Murphy, executive director of the Red Deer Youth and Volunteer Centre. “Our hope is that we can connect youth to services and to housing options.”
The program, which has been operating since 2009, costs about $65,000 per year to operate and has been supported by organizations who have shared the costs to provide the service.
Funding for this year’s program has been secured and has been provided by the Central Alberta Child and Family Services Authority.
“These vulnerable youth are from Red Deer and area communities and face many risks outside in the cold. Whether it is a youth experiencing conflict at home or a youth who faces addictions, it is vital we work together as a caring community to support them,” said David Tunney, Central Alberta Child and Family Services Authority.
Rose Hatfield, program director at the Red Deer Youth and Volunteer Centre said more help in terms of funding is welcome.
“We are looking for community and corporate support to offset the funding we have received so we are not using all of the funds that CFSA has given us,” said Hatfield. “It is a need in our community – that has been identified in the last five years in terms of the number of youth we have assisted.”
She added that sustainable funding is a challenge and is asking Central Alberta communities and organizations to discuss shared partnerships for the 2015 year.
Meanwhile, when youth use Winter Inn program they are given a small warm meal as well as socks, mitts, toiletries and winter jackets if those items are available.
Donations of these items are also accepted, Hatfield added.
As for how many youth the program will serve this year, Hatfield said it is hard to gauge. “You can’t predict crisis.”