fiscal prudence keeps youth on the street

Last week, the Yukon Party government announced the Youth of Today Society would not receive any financial support for its shelter project.

Last week, the Yukon Party government announced the Youth of Today Society would not receive any financial support for its shelter project.

The group wanted the territory to contribute $466,000 in annual funding for the next three years to create a permanent shelter for homeless youth.

But, according to Social Services Minister Glenn Hart, the society’s funding proposal lacked the necessary needs analysis and a fully developed business plan.

The society’s work is “highly appreciated and valued,” said Hart.

But, apparently there are limits.

The society’s funding request was denied.

It’s refreshing to see the government finally taking responsibility for the public’s money.

After all, the group did fail to pin down the number of Yukon children who are bumming beds from sympathetic or predatory adults.

Forget, for a moment, that the Council for Yukon First Nations, Yukon government and others have failed, over the last five years, to pin down the number of homeless youth.

Also, forget that the government provided $250,000 to the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre to provide two temporary beds, (or possibly more, organizers were not specific) for the as-yet-to-be successfully counted homeless youth.

Also forget that Skookum failed to produce a business plan, though it was asked for one.

That three-month project was set to end in June. But,  Skookum failed to spend the $191,000 it was given to run its three-month pilot. So the government simply extended it another three months.

Now the Skookum project has been extended another six months — because of need — and will end in March ‘09.

The government will not say how much this project will cost.

But, clearly, a needs analysis from Youth of Today is important to safeguard the public purse.

After all, there may be only six local children/youth currently trading sex or running drugs for shelter. Establishing such a facility for so few would clearly be a waste of money better used for other things.

For example, it could be used to rebuild roads.

The government is currently spending $31 million to rebuild the Robert Campbell Highway from Watson Lake, including stretches that, by its own statistics, are used by 17 vehicles a day.

And the same week Hart turned down the shelter proposal, Premier Dennis Fentie and Tourism and Culture Minister Elaine Taylor announced they would spend $167,000 to guarantee locals would have some influence over how the Winter Games torch relay would wind through the territory.

No needs analysis for this donation to the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games was provided.

“This certainly is a very momentous occasion for Yukon,” said Fentie, in announcing the funding. “We recognize that a major sporting event such as the Olympics can have lasting benefits in areas of Yukon tourism, sport, economy and in our culture.”

It is up to Youth of Today to make its case on behalf of the territory’s homeless children, however many there are.

Also, it must lay down a solid business model before it receives government investment.

This is especially important given that Fentie’s Finance department tossed $36.5 million into asset-backed commercial paper.

That money remains in limbo. It’s not clear when, if ever, the Yukon will recover it.

So, given that, the territory must be careful about where it sinks public money.

A few youth may be at risk, but the public purse is being protected.

We must commend the government for that.