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Wednesday, 27 September 2017 16:32

Dorie’s House situation beyond disappointing

Written by  Andrea Carol
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Not just a safe place to lay their weary heads, Dorie’s House was a place where young people could find the support they needed in times of crisis. The nine-month old shelter is recognized as a safe haven and the need for it is evident.

To date, the shelter has provided residence to more than 25 youth from around the Southwest. In addition, over twenty youth have come to the facility for various reasons and the shelter has successfully provided support and assistance in reuniting the youths with family.
Its need in the community is irrefutably obvious.
The Government of Saskatchewan suggests funded existing weekday programming is an alternative to the Dorie’s House. Day programs provide support during the day however, they do not give young people a safe place to sleep. A free, hot meal on Wednesdays, though appreciated, is not enough. The government stated  their community partners provide parenting education, intensive in-home supports for families at risk, and other prevention supports to keep families together. These are all admirable, but fall short to address youth homelessness.
The Fresh Start Program and Angel House are operational in Swift Current and funded by the Ministry of Social Services. As stated on the Fresh Start page, “When it is not possible for children to stay in their home, Family Service Workers continue to work with families to foster restoration of the family.”
But where does the young person go in the interim? Calling the Fresh Start number after hours results in an answering service.
The Angel House in Swift Current, is a permanent home for special needs children. Neither of which house wayward teenagers.
The Foster Parent program is available to teens in crisis in Saskatchewan. As stated on the Government of Saskatchewan’s website, “We are looking for foster families from all walks of life and cultural, educational and economic backgrounds throughout urban and rural areas of the province. We especially need First Nations and Métis foster families, and families willing to accept teenagers.”
With the upcoming campaign to increase the number of foster parents in the works, it indicates there is a shortage of foster parents available. Not enough foster parents willing to accept teenagers.
Youth homelessness emergencies don’t always take place during business hours. The Centralized Intake Number is listed online and states services are available Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1-5 p.m. What do youth do outside of business hours?
It’s clear: they go to Dorie’s House.
Yet the government’s purse remains closed despite demonstrated need for the shelter.
To date, Dorie’s House has operated solely on community support.
The city of Swift Current and surrounding area have successfully created a safe place for our youth to go. It is both heroic and praiseworthy for a community of this size to pull off such a colossal endeavor.
In the 2014 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Saskatchewan declared its intention to develop a Saskatchewan Poverty Reduction Strategy. An advisory group was formed and they prepared a final report of recommendations to the Ministry of Social Services in August 2015. The report states, “In 2010, our Government introduced a document titled From Dependence to Independence – Actions and Investments for Saskatchewan’s Most Vulnerable People. The document identified four pillars to guide our policy and program decisions to reduce poverty.” The fourth pillar is “Providing financial support to our most vulnerable citizens.”
Following, the recommendations focused on six areas with Housing/ Homelessness being number two in the report.  The report states, “Safe, affordable housing offers a foundation for people to build a future. Having a safe and affordable place to call home makes it far easier for individuals experiencing poverty to succeed in education, training, and employment.”
The document also states, “We envision all of Saskatchewan committing to actions that will reduce poverty in communities, improve the quality of life for our citizens, and provide better beginnings for our vulnerable children.”.
Dorie’s House is actively providing better beginnings for our vulnerable children, providing safe housing for them and improve their quality of life. The government certainly had good intentions. Or are they just good intentions? The risk factors for youth are growing in risk and intensity.
The CFSEU (Sask. Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit), an integrated policing task force targeting criminal organizations, released a statement that between April 2016 and March 2017, they seized: 5.94 kilograms of cocaine; 2468 grams of methamphetamine; 231 grams of heroin/fentanyl; 682 fentanyl pills and 7 fentanyl patches; 22.5 Oxycontin pills; 19.87 kilograms of marihuana/including 10 marijuana plants. The list goes on.
Our vulnerable youth are facing the dark and taboo underbelly of Southwest Saskatchewan. Drugs, prostitutes, dealers and gangs abound here. This is not the time to bury our heads in the sand and pretend these things don’t exist.
We must do something to protect our young people.
Swift Current has fulfilled its part and taken bold steps to actively reduce crime, homelessness,  and provide shelter for vulnerable youth through Dorie’s House. We wait to see if the government’s good intentions were more than just “good intentions.”
(Andrea Carol is a freelance writer for Prairie Post)

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