Wednesday, 21 June 2017 06:03

Southwest YES reflects on achievements and challenges at annual general meeting

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The past year was a very significant one for the Southwest Youth Emergency Shelter (YES), but the non-profit organization is also facing significant challenges to fund the operation of Dorie’s House.


Board members reflected on the organization’s activities at the second annual general meeting in Swift Current, June 12.
The organization’s goal is to provide safe and secure shelter for youth who are homeless or at risk of being homeless in southwest Saskatchewan.
The construction of Dorie’s House was completed last fall through community support and assistance from more than 100 businesses and the shelter opened its doors in January.
“It’s been really historic that people have been working on trying to develop the youth shelter in the southwest literally for decades and this past year it happened,” Southwest YES President Bob Hale said after the annual meeting. “Tom Westburyand Charmaine Westbury came forward, put the call out to the building community and Dorie’s House was built in Swift Current. ... There are kids in the facility; we are helping young people in the community and this dream has become a reality.”
The organization employs 14 staff in full-time, part-time and casual positions. Staff are scheduledon 12-hour shifts at Dorie’s House, with two youth support workers for each shift.
According to Southwest YES Executive Director Betty McDougall the shelter provided accommodation to 21 youth from mid-January to the end of May, and five of them have returned for an additional stay.
“These are young people who come in for a day or two until they get their feet under them, and they leave,” she said. “They may try to go back to whatever their situation was — sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. So then they’re back with us.”
Southwest YES staff also provided support to six youth who did not stay at Dorie's House.
“They’ve come for safety and then we’ve helped to get whatever it was they needed to be safe,” she said.
Youth are becoming aware of Dorie’s House and they know it is a place where they can go for support and advice, even if it does not involve staying there.
“So many times somebody comes to the door and they’re scared,” she said. “They need some place and they need help and they need to get some direction, and then staff will say that’s why we’re here, that’s exactly why we’re here.”
The duration of stay in the shelter will vary and it will depend on the individual circumstances of each youth.
“We’ve had everything from overnight for safety reasons or our longest stay was two and a half months,” she said. “Average would probably be a week to two.”
McDougall noted the support provided to at-risk youth at Dorie’s House is taking place in a different way than board members anticipated before the shelter opened.
“What we thought about for Dorie’s House as the board was developing this was that it was going to be kids would come, they would stay for three months, we’d get them a job, we’d get them housing and away they go,” she said. “What I’m finding is that we really are emergency transition in the true sense of the word.”
Although not all eight beds in the shelter are always in use, Dorie’s House has actually provided more support to youth than would have been the case if only eight individuals were in the shelter for three months at a time.
“We’re emergency transition, so to be able to have a youth come in the middle of the night and we can get them to safety,” she said. “So, it’s really more that emergency than housing.”
Community support for Dorie’s House remains strong and Southwest YES continues to raise funds to operate the facility, but it does not have a stable source of funding. The organization took out a mortgage on the new building as an interim measure to fund operations.
“I think the financial situation is good, but not great,” Hale said. “We’ve built the facility, we’re open, we’re running and we feel good about that. The big challenge now moving forward is to secure ongoing financing. We’ve had remarkable support from the community, continue to get good donations, but it’s going to be very difficult to continue ongoing without some kind of a stable governmental financial support. That is really the challenge that we have at this point in time going forward.”
Another change in the near future for the organization is the retirement of McDougall at the end of June. The annual meeting approved an interim arrangement to share the duties of the executive director between the house manager and a committee of the board.
McDougall was initially hired as the development co-ordinator for Southwest YES and that position later changed to be the executive director.
“I think the one lasting memory for me or the thing I’m most proud of is the fact that Dorie’s House has been established,” she said. “This is something we’ve been working towards and on committees for 30 years. So to have actually been a part of it actually happening to me is the neatest thing and to be a part of the creation of something as important as a youth shelter for southwest Saskatchewan is the greatest satisfaction.”
Hale noted she played a key role in the efforts to establish a youth shelter for the region.
“She’s been absolutely remarkable,” he said.
“The skills, the knowledge that she brings, the credibility that she brings, just her approach with people. She can work with people and work with the community. I just can’t say enough positive about how much she’s done. We would not be where we are without Betty.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

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