Every night at 9 p.m., Vicki Durrant watches the trolley chug into its depot on First Avenue.
A couple hours later, the Youth of Today Society’s executive director locks up the Blue Feather youth centre and says goodnight to kids who have nowhere to go.
“It is very discouraging when we look out our window and see that the trolley has a home,” said Durrant Wednesday afternoon.
“It boggles my mind, I don’t understand it.
“Whoever is making the decisions needs to put human needs ahead of the needs of the trolley.”
It’s Durrant’s ninth year working with Whitehorse youth.
“And we’ve seen four youth die in the last four years,” she said.
“It’s very frustrating and it’s hard to hold in your frustration, especially when you see young people dying and young people coming here on the edge of death.
“Some of the kids coming here, we don’t know if we’re going to see them tomorrow.”
Durrant has been trying to set up a youth shelter for years.
In 2003-04, she ran the Roadhouse as a shelter that housed 18 youth, but after nine months the funding ran out and the kids were dumped back on the street.
Angel Carlick was one of those youth.
The 19-year-old First Nations girl went missing May 31st 2007.
More than five months later, on November 9th, her body was found near Pilot Mountain subdivision.
Before she went missing, Carlick had a place to live, was holding down a job, was about to graduate and planned to adopt her younger brother, who was living in a group home.
She was also actively involved in trying to set up a youth shelter.
Now, her dream may be coming together.
On Wednesday, Durrant launched a fundraising campaign for Angel’s Nest.
The plan is to buy the Hide on Jeckell Hostel at 410 Jeckell Street to set up a supportive independent living program.
It’s even got the right zoning, said Durrant, who’s seen previous shelter possibilities founder because of zoning regulations.
The Jeckell hostel, selling for $425,000, comes with all the fixings: 22 beds, linen, towels, a fully stocked kitchen with plates, cutlery, pots and pans, 25 bicycles, a barbecue, washer and dryer, a hot tub, two computers, hundreds of books and board games, a stereo with more than 700 CDs and all the necessary furniture.
It’s perfect, said Durrant.
The only catch is raising the $425,000.
So far, more than $5,000 has been raised.
The Youth of Today Society put a $1,000 down payment on the hostel.
The rest of the money has to be in place by September 1st, or the deal falls through.
Durrant has approached the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation to seek help with funding.
Youth of Today is also holding a corporate challenge, an online art auction, a concert, and has designed a puzzle.
Businesses can buy a large copy of the puzzle for $6,500 and then sell laminated pieces, in bronze, silver or gold, to make up a picture of the hostel.
Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation and Carcross/Tagish First Nation have already sent letters of support to Durrant.
Liberal MP Larry Bagnell, the Boys and Girls Club of Whitehorse, Bringing Youth Toward Equality, Whitehorse United Church, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon, the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, the Rotary Club of Whitehorse and the Whitehorse Youth Coalition are also on board.
Durrant is sure more Yukon First Nations will show support.
It was rather short notice, she said.
“There is no issue with the fact I’m not First Nations,” she added.
“Our organization is an all-nation organization. And 99.9 per cent of the youth who come here are First Nation.
“When you see kids on the edge of death, the colour of their skin doesn’t matter. Young people need support regardless of race, colour, or age.”
The proposed shelter will offer more than just food and lodging, said Durrant.
There will also be counsellors and programming, “to address the causes of homelessness, rather than just having a Band-Aid effect,” she said.
Alcohol and Drug Services would love to see this go forward, she added.
“But because it’s a government department they can’t really verbally say they support it — which is insane.”
Drug and alcohol abuse is getting worse, said Durrant.
“The drugs are harder and it’s so much easier to get crack or crystal meth.
“If we don’t set up a shelter now we’re going to have to set up a facility for brain-damaged young people.
“We already see the permanent effects of brain damage on some of the kids that come here.
“We have an option now to set something up, otherwise government will be spending 10 times the amount of money dealing with the problem.”
Durrant hopes the territorial government will pay for the operation and maintenance costs of the proposed shelter. But so far, she’s had no commitment.
“It’s not government money,” said Durrant.
“The government is the keeper of the money, and is supposed to use it for what is best for the public — these kids are the public.”
Growing up in the Yukon, James Roddick noticed a definite disparity between youth.
“You see a lot of unfortunate youth walking around looking for a place to go; they seem kind of lost,” said the BYTE youth program co-ordinator.
“A lot of people have misconceptions why people are poor, or why people have different addictions and I’ve gained some insight into that through school and experience.
“I’ve come to realize it’s not their fault, and as members of the community it is our job to reach out and help them.”
Contact Genesee Keevil at firstname.lastname@example.org