In the seven years since Cyrus Centre for at-risk youth opened its doors in Abbotsford, executive director Les Talvio has never seen the demand for services so high.
“This month (November), we’ve had to turn away more youth than we ever have,” he said.
This equates to a greater need than ever for the centre – located on Ware Street – to meet its Christmas campaign fundraising goal. Talvio said this season’s $100,000 goal will enable the centre to break even and prevent a cut in services at such a crucial time.
An average of about 60 kids ages 12 to 18 use the centre each day for such things as a hot meal, showering, laundry, life skills and employment coaching.
The centre also provides four emergency-shelter beds, where kids can stay overnight.
During extreme weather – when temperatures hit 0 degrees or less – another 10 spots are provided.
But Talvio said it’s not enough. The centre had to turn away about 20 youths this month who were looking for a place to spend the night, and there were no other shelter beds available.
“I have staff crying because the best they are able to provide is a couple of sleeping bags, a tarp and some food … It’s heart-breaking,” Talvio said.
In 2013, the centre plans to launch two new programs with longer term solutions, which will help alleviate the pressure on Cyrus Centre.
A family has donated the use of a home in central Abbotsford for kids 16 years and older who can’t live with their families and are too old for foster care but aren’t ready to live on their own.
The program, Roofs 4 Youth, will involve four to six young people living in the home with house parents while they work towards a long-term solution for their housing and job needs.
“We hope to empower and equip them with the skills necessary to be successful on their own,” Talvio said.
He said although the program will cost an additional $70,000 a year above Cyrus Centre’s $360,000 annual budget, he is confident the community will provide the necessary support.
Also needed are volunteer tradespeople to do some renovations on the home before its anticipated opening next spring, as well as donations of building supplies.
A complementary program that Cyrus Centre also plans to launch next year is Housing Assistance. This involves offering one-on-one support to youth in need of housing and to landlords, who are often reluctant to rent to young tenants.
Meanwhile, in addition to the funds needed through the Christmas campaign, Cyrus Centre is also requesting donations of items such as coffee, hot chocolate, whitener, granulated sugar, and gloves.
Last year, the centre assisted almost 300 youth with shelter and served more than 20,000 meals.
For more information or to make a donation, visit cyruscentre.com or call 604-859-5773.