Loren Roberts

Youth shelter announced for Langley

Five-bed shelter will be part of new Youth Resource Centre, set to open in July

The call for youth shelter beds in Langley has been answered.

On Thursday morning, Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA and Housing Minister Rich Coleman announced plans for a new Langley Youth Resource Centre in the Township, which will include five shelter beds for homeless youth.

A range of services will be offered seven days a week through the centre, which will be located at 20285 62 Ave.

Once complete, the centre will expand on services currently provided two days a week by the Langley Youth Hub. These include: food, bus passes, showers, laundry, clothing, employment opportunities and access to housing.

The facility will be a modular building, and is anticipated to be open this July.

Loren Roberts, director of operations and organizational development with Encompass Support Services Society, made an emotional speech, thanking Langley’s youth for making their vision a reality.

He said they’ve been talking about a youth centre like this for years, but “we got nowhere as adults, and it came down to a youth voice.”

Last year, students from several Langley high schools formed a committee to push for a youth homeless shelter in Langley.

Throughout their efforts, which included round table discussions, they cited a 2015 figure, which estimates there are as many as 160 teenagers in Langley who do not have a safe home to go to.

Currently, the nearest shelter beds are in Surrey and Abbotsford.

In September, the committee hosted an outdoor concert at the Langley Events Centre to raise funds and draw attention to the issue.

Having a safe place for youth to go is invaluable, said Elliot Cluney, a Grade 12 student at Brookswood Secondary who has been part of the Langley Youth Hub since it opened.

“It breaks down the barriers for youth to access services like housing, job help and medical services,” he said.

“The youth count on the Youth Hub. Some of them, it may be for their first hot meal of the day, maybe even the week. And for others, it’s just a place where they can go and have fun and let their guard down and feel safe. The space is phenomenal, I’ve never felt so comfortable in a space — ever.”

During his remarks, Mayor Jack Froese thanked Coun. Charlie Fox for taking the lead on the initiative on behalf of the Township.

“Charlie has a heart as big as this room, and it is for youth. Charlie was the champion for this project,” he said.

“I’m proud of this project, I think it is a highlight of my two terms as mayor.”

The centre is funded by a $355,000 contribution from BC Housing, with donated land from the Township of Langley, valued at $450,000.

Members of the Youth Homelessness Task Force also raised $18,000 that was donated to Encompass Support Services Society.

The centre’s mission is to create “a welcoming community of service providers who support youth in one location with a vision to increase their confidence and creativity, while building positive connections to promote and enhance their self care and wellness needs,” according to an info sheet distributed at the announcement.

The Langley Youth Resource Centre is a partnership between numerous community groups, including: Encompass Support Services Society, Langley Division of Family Practice, Ministry of Child and Family Development, Stepping Stone Community Services Society, Langley School District, Langley Community Services Society, Youth Unlimited, Aboriginal Child & Youth Mental Health, the Township of Langley, City of Langley, The F.O.R.C.E. Society of Kids Mental Health, Fraser Health Authority, RCMP, Focus Foundation — Whytecliff and Nightshift Ministries.