For youth on fringe, a home in Oak Bay

At least seven Victoria youth facing homelessness will have the chance to live in a newly painted, bright and roomy home in a quiet Oak Bay neighbourhood.

It’s the kind of home a young person should grow up in, said Mark Muldoon, executive director of Threshold Housing Society. The non-profit organization helps house homeless and at-risk youth around Greater Victoria.

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On July 1, it took possession of a newly leased respite home next to the United Church on Granite Street. The eight-unit building was built as a seniors’ home in the 1990s. Threshold hopes to have the youth move in on Sept. 1.

The church owns the building and tried to sell it before deciding to lease to Threshold.

“It’s airy and open and has a sense of life to it. And it’s close to amenities and buses,” Muldoon said.

This month, volunteers came to help paint and renovate the home. Most were employees from Home Depot, which raises funds for Threshold through donor boxes at the tills of its Greater Victoria stores.

Home Depot also gave Threshold a $30,000 renovation grant specifically for the new home.

“We got 42 volunteers here … from nine Island stores — some came from as far as Squamish and Campbell River,” said Cameron Rundell, operations assistant at the Shelbourne Street store.

Muldoon said the help from Home Depot was particularly meaningful because a Threshold youth works the night shifts at the store.

Many of the youth in Threshold housing work and go to school. Muldoon said in the past year, the organization has housed 52 youth in three homes and supported market housing.

“But we had 117 applications,” he said. “Where did they go? Look at the vacancy rates. Where is this invisible, voiceless population?”

Muldoon said the society’s board decided to lease the new home because of the need and because the housing market is increasingly tight. “The board decided we had to do this now … and we know youth do better in a communal home setting,” he said.

They will have to run the home at a bit of a loss, for now, but are hoping to supplement through donations and any government funding that becomes available.

Muldoon noted youth are the fastest growing sector of the homeless population in Canada. He said this is partly fuelled by transgender youth; Threshold houses several. He also cited the recent Point in Time survey of homeless people in Victoria, which revealed a large number of youth. In addition, the majority of those surveyed said they first experienced homelessness as youth.

“This shows preventing youth homelessness is key,” Muldoon said.

Of 1,387 homeless people, there were 120 youth, according to the survey conducted in February. Thirty-seven per cent of the respondents said they first became homeless when they were younger than 18.

spetrescu@timecolonist.com

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