Participants in the 5th annual Southwest Run for Shelter helped to raise funds in support of an emergency shelter for homeless youth in southwest Saskatchewan.
The run took place along the scenic Chinook Parkway in Swift Current, June 8. There were 38 entrants, who had a choice of running a full or half marathon, or otherwise participate over shorter distances of two, five or 10 kilometres.
The event is organized by Southwest Youth Emergency Shelter (YES) and raised over $3,800. All proceeds will make a difference to achieve the goal to re-open Dorie's House, an emergency shelter for homeless youth.
Dorie’s House was open for eight months during 2017 as a pilot project to highlight the need for such a service in southwest Saskatchewan. The doors of the eight-bed facility had to be closed due to lack of funding and Southwest YES, a nonprofit organization, has been trying since then to secure provincial funding for Dorie's House.
Shaun Hanna, the Southwest YES board president, said people are still showing their support for Dorie's House.
“It's been now a year and a half since we wound down our pilot project and we're still receiving donations every month, just people spontaneously coming up and saying this is still an important cause for us,” he mentioned. “So it's pretty humbling to see that. That this is still very much an issue that's on top of mind for people.”
This support makes it possible for Southwest YES to continue to provide a helping hand in the community.
“Even though we're not operating at full capacity in the sense of taking in youth, we're still being able to help in ways that count,” he said. “Food that gets donated to us, clothing that gets donated to us, we're still able to help people with those donations.”
According to Hanna the question of how close they are to reopening Dorie's House is a complicated one to answer.
Southwest YES has been making connections with national organizations that are working to address youth homelessness. It is in discussions with organizations such as A Way Home Canada, a national coalition, about carrying out a point in time count in southwest Saskatchewan to update the statistics with regard to the need for a shelter for homeless youth in the region.
“So there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes, which is not necessarily exciting news, but important to get done,” he said.
He noted that Southwest YES has always been committed to making sure the community has a stake in the future of the organization, because youth homelessness is a communal problem that will require communal solutions.
“As important as it is to have partnerships with say the Ministry of Social Services, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, it is also important for our community to have skin in the game when it comes to solving this problem, because it really is a communal problem,” he said. “It's better to have communal solutions to communal problems. So while we do need that sort of block funding to help pay for things like youth workers, overhead cost of the shelter, it's also important for us to have sustainability.”
The doors of Dorie's House was closed after the pilot project to make sure the long-term sustainability of the initiative will not be compromised. Fundraising initiatives such as the Run for Shelter will help Southwest YES to work towards that sustainability goal.
“When we wound down our pilot project a couple of years ago, we did that in order to make sure that our nest egg was secure so that this would be a sustainable project,” he said. “What we're looking at doing is building basically a trust fund so that in the future the shelter can be operated on its own. There's always going to be sponsorship intervention for sure, but that sustainability piece is really important. So the money raised from this is basically going to that trust fund to operating and future costs, which is actually where all the donations go to currently.”