Nts’ äw Chua, a new youth transition home in Whitehorse, has officially opened at 22 Wann Rd. with officials heralding it as much more than a home for 15 to 18-year-olds in the government’s care.
While the home is officially opened, residents have yet to be selected and move in.
The services to be delivered from the fully renovated (at a cost of $2.3 million) house are aimed at helping youth transition to living independently, Minister of Health said Social Services Pauline Frost said.
“Youth will learn valuable life skills,” Frost told the crowd of media and government officials gathered for the official opening and tour of the building, which takes its name from the Southern Touchtone name for the Porter Creek neighbourhood.
It’s well-known youth coming out of government care face significant challenges when they transition to living independently, policy analyst Simone Fournel said.
|A kitchen area at Nts’ äw Chua, a new youth transition home at 22 Wann Rd. in Whitehorse, on Dec. 6, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)|
While youth can receive some services up to age 24, they are no longer eligible for group home housing after they turn 19.
Many now-adults who lived in government group homes told officials they came out of the system without the skills needed for independent living.
“Some youth gave us feedback that they didn’t know how to boil an egg when they left our care,” Fournel said.
The program offered out of Nts’ äw Chua will provide youth living at the home with skills including meal planning and prep skills, vocational planning and budgeting.
Fournel spoke during a tour of the former bed-and-breakfast, which features a supportive housing side aimed primarily at ages 15 to 17 with four bedrooms, a kitchen with commercial grade appliances where youth will be tasked and instructed in cooking alongside a culinary mentor, as well as a living room, laundry facilities and two units for families from out of town who may be visiting youth living there.
On the other side of the home are four semi-independent suites for youth ages 17 to 18 who have demonstrated maturity and would benefit from more independence. The semi-independent units are bachelor suits with kitchenettes where youth can prepare their meals; though Fournel also said the youth can access the larger kitchen also available on that side of the house.
|One of the four semi-independent suites for youth ages 17 to 18 at 22 Wann Rd. in Whitehorse on December 6, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)|
Youth living in the semi-independent suites will have to sign a mock rental agreement as part of the program, all part of the preparation to transition to independence.
There will be two to three staff on-site at all times.
The living room on the semi-independent side will also serve as a site for the department to offer drop-in services for youth up to age 24. Fournel said much of the help offered to those between 19 and 24 is in connecting those young adults with existing services.
Workshops, programming and more to help youth plan for their future are expected to be offered.
There are also laundry facilities, showers, computer and Internet access that will be available for those accessing the drop-in services.
With a large field in the back of the property, there’s potential for youth to garden (thus potentially growing and preparing their own food), outdoor activities and maybe even a shop for youth to do things like metal work. Like a lot of garages around town, the two-vehicle garage that’s part of the home is filled with many items that aren’t vehicles.
Table tennis and gym equipment in the form of a treadmill and weights will allow youth some more active recreation options on colder Yukon days.
The garage also features a lift for access into the home.
|The garage of 22 Wann Rd. features a ping pong table and a lift to access the house. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)|
Move-in dates have not been finalized as staff is currently in the process of receiving and reviewing applications.
It’s also not known how much operations of the home will cost.
Fournel said this is a more intensive program, the first of its kind in the territory and as such the costs are not yet fully known.
Health and Social Services spokesperson Pat Living said the department would have a better sense of what the ongoing operating costs are in about six months.
The official opening comes months after the facility had been anticipated to open in April.
During question period Nov. 26, Yukon Party MLA Geraldine Van Bibber questioned Frost about the delay.
Frost replied by highlighting the extensive work and consultation done to develop the transitional program.
“We are working with our neighbours. We are happy to say that we have worked with our First Nation partners, Kwanlin Dün and Ta’an Kwäch’än,” she said.
“We have worked with our Safe At Home communities. We have worked with many partners to announce the 22 Wann Rd. project — a new project and an innovative project that addresses the needs of youth who are transitioning out of care.”
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org