Youth shelter project an undefined success

Since the $191,000 youth shelter pilot project started in late January, one youth has spent one night at Alcohol and Drug Services, said Larry…

Since the $191,000 youth shelter pilot project started in late January, one youth has spent one night at Alcohol and Drug Services, said Larry Whitfield.

The two beds “are there if anyone needs them,” said the drug services program manager on Tuesday.

 “Why it’s not being used more, I don’t know,” he said.

“The people from Skookies, if they want to refer people, can bring them over.”

Skookum Jim Friendship Centre’s executive director Michelle Kolla will know how many people have used the program, said Whitfield.

Kolla didn’t have those numbers at her fingertips.

A request for the information was made last Thursday through Social Services spokesperson Pat Living.

 So far, there’s been no answer.

On Tuesday, the News asked Kolla for the information directly.

“I’ll call you back,” she said.

When?

“I won’t be able to tell you them right now. I’ll have to go and look at the stats. I don’t have them in front of me right this minute.

“I’m in meetings all day tomorrow (Wednesday), and all day Thursday — Friday would be the closest.”

Can anyone else provide the numbers sooner?

“No.”

When it was suggested a single bed had been used a single night, Kolla said that was incorrect.

“We’ve had a lot more than that.”

She wouldn’t say how many more.

“They’re staying at various safe beds,” said Kolla.

Not just Alcohol and Drug Services?

“They’re staying at various safe beds,” she repeated.

The program has been successful?

“Very successful.”

The friendship centre’s $191,000 pilot project ends in May.

Most of the money is going to Skookum Jim employees, said Living in a previous interview.

“There are some minor costs like cellphones and the car rental and gas, but the majority of the funding is going to salaries,” she said.

The money is used to pay four on-call outreach workers, two per shift, who are available from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. seven days a week.

It works out to roughly $15,000 per month for each worker.

“I haven’t heard of anyone using it,” said Blue Feather Youth Centre executive director Vicki Durrant.

“I guessed it wasn’t going anywhere.”

Critics were worried youth would not want to go to Alcohol and Drug Services for a bed.

If these youth are on the street because of alcohol issues in their home, why would they feel safe going to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre to find a bed and be in with people that have addictions? said New Democrat MLA John Edzerza in an earlier interview on the program.

Homeless youth are vulnerable and they need to trust people before accepting their services, said several youth service providers.

The key reason for the pilot project is “to evaluate the number of youth who actually needed these services,” said Social Services Minister Brad Cathers in January.

It was a waste of money, said Durrant.

“And I hope they don’t use the stats as a measuring rod to say we don’t have a problem,” she said.

“It’s like throwing out dog food to see how many birds come and then saying, ‘We don’t have any birds in the Yukon.’”