A program that provides safe rides home to youth in Abbotsford, Mission and Aldergrove is in danger of being scrapped if more funds don’t become available.
SafeRide Home (SRH) has been operated by Youth Unlimited, a faith-based organization, since 1992, providing free rides home for young people who might be impaired, bullied, beaten, lost, abandoned or need to get home safely.
More than 20,000 youths have used the service since it began. An average of 50 teens use the service every weekend, and the average age is 16.
Al McLean began the program to prevent deaths resulting from teenage drinking and driving after three teens he knew died in impaired-driving accidents.
For the first 10 years, McClean used his own vehicle. In 2002, funds became available for the purchase of the first SRH van.
By 2008, SRH had a three-hour wait list for kids needing a ride. In 2010, an Abbotsford businessman leased a second van for the program, which considerably reduced the wait list.
McLean passed away in 2011, but staff and volunteers have kept the program going.
They are now facing financial challenges. The lease of their second van ends this August, and an additional $16,000 is needed to buy out the lease and retain the vehicle.
The first SRH van is getting older and will need to be replaced in the future.
The program’s primary partners, the Abbotsford Heat and the Heat Foundation, are leaving town with their financial support, following the recent announcement of the city ending their contract with the hockey team.
Doug McKellan of Youth Unlimited (YU) said an additional challenge is that many community grants are not accessible to faith-based organizations, although YU continues to apply for them.
He said the agency appreciates the support it receives from individuals, businesses and service organizations such as the Kiwanis Club and Lanka Jewels.
Anyone who is interested in becoming a partner with SRH and Youth Unlimited is asked to contact Doug at email@example.com or 604-835-0380.