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Thursday, 28 September 2017 10:51

Dorie’s House meets with Social Services Minister Paul Merriman

Written by  Contributed by Dorie's House staff
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Social Services Minister Paul Merriman is welcomed to Dorie's House by Southwest Youth Emergency Shelter President Bob Hale and board member Shaun Hanna, Sept. 27. Social Services Minister Paul Merriman is welcomed to Dorie's House by Southwest Youth Emergency Shelter President Bob Hale and board member Shaun Hanna, Sept. 27. Contributed

Dorie’s House is a project 35 years in the making. Its mandate is to offer temporary emergency housing to youth ages 14-17, who, for one reason or other, “fall between the cracks of the system.”

 

Rather than ignoring the problem of youth homelessness, the citizens of the southwest faced this challenge head on, creating the best viable solution to a very real problem.

On Thursday September 21, 2017, we announced the temporary closure of Dorie’s House. Over the weekend, we were met with a passionate response from a concerned public, who, like us, believe our services to be paramount to the wellbeing of our community. This closure concludes the third phase of our project.

We want you to know: we’re not going anywhere.

We have had the opportunity to address many misconceptions about the shelter and its programs since our announcement, in particular with issues concerning public funding. In a press release, Premier Wall reiterated his position on the lack of government funding, explaining that tough choices often need to be made during years of economic restraint no matter how compelling the project.

Mr Wall’s statement did not catch us off guard. We have had a very positive, open dialogue with all of our public-sector partners (Social Services, Health, Justice, and Education) during all phases of our project. However, we were surprised by two keys points omitted in his statement, points we wish to clarify here:

1)    During our initial meeting, our partners at the Ministry of Social Services had tasked us to demonstrate conclusively that a need for such a service exists before public funding could be made available. We agree with this approach, believing it both responsible and necessary to ensure that public funds are being used wisely and effectively;

2)    We have organized our project into four phases:

a.    Phase 1 – The Research Project:

A committee comprised of a number of agencies began meeting to identify the scope of the project. This committee established that the need for an emergency-based youth shelter was not being met under current social programs;

b.    Phase 2 – The Capital Building and Community Awareness Project:

Southwest Youth Emergency Shelter (SwYES) incorporated in order begin fundraising to build the shelter, and educate the community about the need for the project and the opportunity we have to correct that need. The community response was overwhelmingly generous. Thanks to the efforts of Tom and Charmaine Westbury (Len’s Plumbing & Heating Ltd) and the entire Trades community, the shelter build wrapped up in 2016. The shelter was named “Dorie’s House” in honour of Tom and Charmaine’s mom, who had passed away in August 2015;

c.    Phase 3 – The Pilot Project:

Despite three decades of inter-agency research, our public-sector partners still required more evidence. In January 2017, SwYES, Inc. opened Dorie’s House. The purpose of this pilot project was to gather key evidence, underscoring how and to what extent the southwest community’s needs are not being met. We had hoped to run this pilot project for a full year, however, in September 2017, the board felt it would be fiscally irresponsible to continue operating without funding in place.


d.    Phase 4 – The Future of Dorie’s House, Community Partnerships Project:

After identifying the need, and after building this shelter in partnership with the private sector, and after conclusively demonstrating the viability of this shelter, we now enter into the final phase of the project: long-term, sustainable service.

While it would be fantastic to imagine full funding by our government, we also know that to be unrealistic. Such an important project as this undoubtedly requires the efforts of partnerships both public and private going forward. Significant contributions have already been made by the people of Maple Creek and area, for example, through the Zack Smith Golf Tournament. Their donations of more than $30,000 – in addition to the significant amount of labour and supplies donated by the trades in Swift Current – demonstrate the commitment of the private sector to this project. We hope that the government might reconsider their position, and fully support this project. As Mr. Wall has previously stated, “Some things are better when we do them together.”

We know the passion many of us feel for this project.

We also know it would be disingenuous to direct too much frustration towards our government partners. But, sometimes the levers of power need a push to do what’s right, and just, and fair.

Their goals and ours align.

Southwest YES, Inc. is committed to work alongside our government partners to do what’s best for those most vulnerable.

To be clear, our ask to government amounts to the following:

1)    How do we strengthen our existing partnerships, in particular, with the Ministry of Social Services, without burdening an already thin budget;
2)    Given the apparent need for service, what steps can we take together to ensure that this gap in service is closed;
3)    What steps can we take going forward to ensure our successful funding in future budgets?

Times will not always be so tough in Saskatchewan, budgets not so austere. And when our provincial government finds itself in a better position to help financially, we hope that they, like you, will rise to the occasion, helping to end youth homelessness in the southwest.

In the meantime, we hope to better partner with our government within existing programs to help fill a desperately needed service. Our approach is far from irresponsible; it is right, it is just; and it is fair.

We hope that we can count on your continued support too, so that when we reopen our doors, we never have to close them again.
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If you believe a child may be neglected or abused, you have a legal responsibility to immediately report your concerns. In southern Saskatchewan, you can call Social Services at 1-844-787-3760, or local RCMP. Families with children and youth in need of support can also reach out to the Ministry of Social Services anytime.

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