Summer weather is slowly turning to fall, making it imperative for those in emergency situations to have access to a warm, safe, well-kept place to lay their heads at night.
That’s why the team at the YES Shelter for Youth and Families is excited to share the organization has raised over $120,000 of the funds required to support the much-needed repairs of the shelter’s building at 196 Brock Street in downtown Peterborough.
The milestone means the charitable organization is less than $80,000 away from reaching the $200,000 goal required to address a list of safety, structural, and functional aspects of the building in an effort to provide a more comfortable space for youth and families seeking emergency support.
“We really want to be able to offer services in a dignified place that reflects the effort that all of our workers are putting into the services they’re offering every day,” says Brooke Erickson, the manager of fundraising and communications at YES Shelter for Youth and Families.
With the purpose of preventing and reducing homelessness in Peterborough City and County, YES serves approximately 250 new clients each year while providing ongoing support to those who have previously accessed the shelter’s resources.
Between homelessness prevention services, a long-term transitional housing program, an onsite alternative classroom, a food and clothing cupboard, and an ongoing outreach support to connect clients with the community, all the programs and services to support YES’s clients means little is left for building maintenance.
VIDEO: Help us Repair the YES Shelter for Youth and Families
“All of our funds and all of our efforts go towards the people who need help,” explains Erickson, adding that the sector is largely underfunded and the majority of resources go towards paying the essential staff.
“When you’re looking at a list on a piece of paper, it’s easy to prioritize the maintenance of the building. But when you’re looking at someone in the eye who needs someone to sit down with them and help them through a crisis that truly makes survival difficult, we just need to be there for them. If you look at that from a budget perspective, we really can’t lose these staff members.”
Though Erickson notes the building has been in rough shape since she first joined the organization four and a half years ago, recently it’s “truly becoming dilapidated to the point where it’s unsafe and really needing attention.”
“We pride ourselves on supplying the basics to people, like the food, financial aid, and toiletries that are needed,” Erickson says. “A lot of people would consider the basics and look at the structure and think ‘If it’s falling down, that’s not supplying the basics.’ If we can’t do that, how do you know we’re measuring up in other parts of our service?”
Feedback from young people accessing the shelter’s resources during the pandemic ultimately encouraged YES to prioritize getting the shelter back into a comfortable living space.
The team created an 11-point list of needs to address within the old building, including fire safety upgrades, bathroom renovations, parking lot expansion, fence replacement, main foyer renovations, the winterization of the upper porch, and other structural support. Altogether, the work needing to be done totalled approximately $214,615.
“Just the idea of it being a shelter makes it scary [for clients], so putting time and effort into making it look welcoming is really important,” explains Erickson, adding that it is especially important with so many young children coming through the building.
“We do our best with our shelter worker team and our outreach team to make people feel OK when they get out of the shelter, but if it looks like a haunted house, it’s not going to serve our clients as well, and it’s not going to serve our community as well.”
The $200,000 YES Shelter Repair Project fundraiser was launched in February. The organization has already begun to invest in the building’s repairs using the funds that have been raised thus far, beginning with the necessary fire safety upgrades.
Then, the shelter replaced the sanitary drain that, Erickson explains, was “wreaking havoc.” In doing this, the shelter also replaced the tiered garden beds and put down permeable pavement to replace the compacted dirt that was previously laid at the building’s entrance.
“It makes the front of the building more functional and easier to maintain,” says Erickson. “It looks so good. It honestly helps employee morale and I’m sure it increases youth and family morale, too.”
Next on the list, YES will be entirely redoing each of the four bathrooms (two on the floor of the youth wing, and two on the floor of the family wing), solving a major plumbing issue that arises when up to 16 youth all share one bathroom.
At a cost of about $60,000, the new industrial-grade bathrooms will, according the Erickson, be “indestructible and safe,” and “can handle the volume that it tends to accommodate in the shelter.”
Other next steps include replacing the warped fencing along the side of the building, replacing the side porch clients use, and structurally supporting and winterizing the third-floor porch.
Erickson assures that once all the repairs, replacements, and updates are complete, the shelter already has a plan in place to ensure the building stays maintained and does not revert to its previous condition.
“We’ve been able to build up a very good volunteer base,” says Erickson, adding that they have gardening and landscape crews for exterior upkeep and a maintenance crew for any drywall, plumbing, or electrical issues that arise.
“They’re a group of skilled individuals from the community who are willing to give time and expertise to keep it in a state of good repair. We feel really confident that we’ll be able to keep the shelter in a good state.”
The manager maintains she’s also eager to have a prideful visual to show members of the community where their money is going, acknowledging the services provided by the shelter are paid for by the community, whether through the City of Peterborough, through donations, or through the province.
“The community wants it to be a building they can be proud of,” Erickson syas. “I know that everybody who supports the shelter and who lives in Peterborough would want the building to be welcoming, to be safe, and to feel like the people who are in there are going to take good care of the folks who are struggling.”
For more information on the YES Shelter Repair Project, including a full list of planned repairs, and to make a donation, visit yesshelter.ca/repairproject/.