Original Published on Jun 23, 2022 at 10:31

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Last Monday (June 13) City of Grande Prairie council waived a land-use bylaw to allow for a new emergency youth shelter.

What was holding up the construction of the shelter was that it had not yet been registered at the land titles office, which currently has a three- to four-month waiting list, according to the city.

“We’re going to change a lot of lives with this new facility,” said Tanya Wald, Sunrise House executive director.

“We’re hoping to be started by the very latest, the middle of July, so we’re planning to do a groundbreaking in the next three weeks.”

She noted $4 million has been raised to date; the total current estimated cost will be approximately $5.5 million.

Currently, Sunrise House has a 12-bed emergency shelter in a converted duplex. The new build will significantly expand the programming offered.

The new build will have 24 emergency shelter beds, transitional beds, and 11 bachelor suite apartments for youth aged 12 to 17.  

“It won’t just be focused on shelter, but really a full spectrum of services to ensure that we’re meeting all the needs of our youth,” said Wald.

She said the lower level of the building will have a wellness hub which will be a place where youth can go and connect with workers from different agencies and get the support they need.

“We’re really limited right now on what we can do for programming because we’re so space-constrained,” said Wald.

Sunrise House serves youth for various reasons, from struggles at home, whether it be a family breakdown, separation, or struggles with communication.

“We also work with youth who have been affected by exploitation or any kind of trafficking; unfortunately, that is a real thing in our in our region and in our province,” said Wald.

“The new facility will really be able to customize our programming better because the services and supports we provide for someone who is just having a bit of trouble at home, who just needs some extra support, or the parents need some additional support.

“It’s very different than working with a youth who may be struggling with addiction or struggling with sexual exploitation, so we really want to make sure that every youth has access to the right support the moment they walk in.”

The new build will be on an empty lot in the Gateway area at 110 St. and 107 Ave. just south of the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital.

Wald says the new location is ideal, being closer to the high school and many employment options for youth in the area.

The location is close to the college and will offer nursing and social work students the opportunity to become involved with the organization, she said.

“No concerns or objections have been received, and since the report was submitted, we have still not received any objections or correspondence from adjacent landowners,” said the city.

Sunrise House is looking to find support for the last $1.5 million needed to complete the build.

She noted that support has come from the city, county, and MD of Greenview.

This item reprinted with permission from Town & Country News, Beaverlodge, Alberta