A local organization supporting the city’s most vulnerable young people may soon be out of a home as the building they operate in has been deemed unsafe.
Old Strathcona Youth Society (OSYS) is now scrambling to find a new location as it fears it won’t be able to support its youth to its full potential.
“There’s no available spaces in Old Strathcona, and I haven’t heard back yet and I don’t know when I’m going to hear back about other spaces,” executive director Ian Pidgeon told Global News.
“I would say there’s a lot of stress, a lot of apprehension, a lot of strong emotions,” he added.
OSYS is one of a few drop-in services dedicated to teens and young adults that offers employment information, housing referrals, bus fare, food, clothing, and life-saving services.
The City of Edmonton blames an aging building with structural concerns.
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“The building is over 100 years old and we recently learned that the structural issue has worsened. The building’s foundation is in really bad shape and we can’t continue to lease the space after this year,” the statement read.
“We know how important the Old Strathcona Youth Society’s drop-in services are for young Edmontonians who are struggling and are doing everything we can to help them find another space. We are working internally to see if other City space is available that will meet their needs, and we are reaching out to community partners as well,” the statement continued.
Pidgeon said he learned about the potential relocation in mid-December, and said it’s not enough time to find a new space in addition to the programming he runs.
“OSYS is all about relationships. When you are unhoused and you are struggling, isolation is really … that’s really the thing that kind of holds you back. Being able to be seen by staff and have a place where you feel connected is so important,” he explained.
According to the agency, serves roughly 50 youth per day. Pidgeon expressed the area has a high population of houseless youth, which means leaving the neighbourhood defeats the purpose of their service.
“The difficulty when it comes to being unhoused and vulnerable is there’s already a lot of hoops you have to jump through to get services so you really have to go where the population is,” Pidgeon explained.
James Junior St-Jacques has relied on OSYS for nearly three years. After experiencing homelessness himself, he managed to find employment and will move into an apartment later this month.
“It’s one of the only programs that you can go to who are struggling through homelessness to get their supplies to stay at least warm during these types of temperatures,” St-Jacques explained.
“This program especially helped me get those people, be able to talk to those people, get the support I needed and everything. If they weren’t here I probably won’t know where I’ll be right now,” St-Jacques added.
The organization said they’ll transition into a community outreach approach if they can’t find a new location by March 31.