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Orillia in dire need of youth shelter, youth centre official says

By Gisele Winton Sarvis, Special to Postmedia Network

Kevin Gangloff, left, director, and Todd Greenwood, senior youth worker, at the Orillia Youth Centre (OYC), are excited the OYC is the local recipient of the Home Depot Canada Foundation’s Orange Door campaign going on until July 2.

Kevin Gangloff, left, director, and Todd Greenwood, senior youth worker, at the Orillia Youth Centre (OYC), are excited the OYC is the local recipient of the Home Depot Canada Foundation’s Orange Door campaign going on until July 2.

Orillia is in need of a youth shelter, said Kevin Gangloff, director of the Orillia Youth Resource and Drop-In Centre, also known as the Orillia Youth Centre (OYC).

He said every large community in Simcoe County could use one, but only Barrie has one, Youth Haven, with 20 beds.

Gangloff has been working on getting a youth shelter in Orillia for the past two years, laying the foundation by meeting with officials from the City of Orillia and local community groups.

“The largest roadblock right now is we have no dollars from the province, no dollars from the county and no dollars from the federal government that have anything to do with youth homelessness,” he said.

While there is funding available for affordable housing, none of it is directed to youth housing, and putting 16- or 17-year-old teenagers in a subsidized apartment or hotel does not provide them the support they need to be successful, he added.

He said he often gets calls from community organizations and from youth looking for assistance for housing. He has to refer them to Youth Haven in Barrie or another centre in Newmarket.

“If the last piece you have is your peer group and then you are taking them away from that ... that’s not a successful model,” he said.

It’s also not entirely helpful to have a shelter and beds without the funding to run programs, he said.

“They are all part in parcel to the project. You need some programming dollars in place to run a shelter,” he said.

Gangloff was happy to hear the OYC has been chosen as the local recipient of the Home Depot Canada Foundation’s Orange Door Project that aims to curb youth homelessness.

Throughout June, customers at stores across the country will be asked if they want to donate $2. All the funds raised at the Orillia Home Depot will be given to the OYC, said local store manager Dave Craig.

Nationally, the Home Depot Canada Foundation is committing $10 million to fight youth homelessness over three years.

“It was shocking to find out that there are no youth homeless beds in Orillia,” said Craig, who chose the OYC as the fund recipient after meeting Gangloff and learning about the programs the centre provides free to local youth.

Home Depot has already done renovation work at the 9 Front Street St. S. youth centre, including putting up cupboards over the billiard area, a vanity in the bathroom and sectioning off the electrical panel from the kitchen space.

Last year, a similar Home Depot fundraiser raised more than $4,000, said Craig, who is expecting the results to be comparable this year.

“They will be able to take this money and put it toward programming instead of putting it toward renovations. That’s important to me,” Craig said.

Gangloff said while the centre don’t have a shelter, it offers a wide range of programming for youth from drug-addiction counselling to rock climbing.

“One hundred per-cent of the funds will go back into youth programming because everything we do is offered free of charge,” he said.

Gangloff said the funds will be spent on youth at risk of homelessness and may be directed to emergency food, clothing and transportation.

Attendance at the OYC grows every year. When Gangloff started with the organization about 12 years ago, it had 1,500 visits a year. Last year, there were nearly 13,000 visits.

According to the Home Depot Foundation’s stats, youth are one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population in Canada. One in five shelter users in Canada is a youth.

OYC conducted its own survey in 2012 with 1,261 local youth between the ages of 16 and 18 and found 20% had either couch surfed, stayed at a non-family home or slept outside because they had nowhere to go.

While less than 2% reported they were homeless, 5% said they had been homeless in the past and almost 40% said they knew youth who were homeless.


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