Helping Give Calgary’s Homeless and At-Risk Girls Their Future Back
There is a pressing need to ensure Calgary’s most vulnerable youth can access housing and experience barrier-free and continuous access to education throughout their youth. We have seen an increase in referrals with more schools and parents reaching out for support and an increase in abuse, substance usage and families not staying connected. We provide other options and supports to those youth and their families because we are not able to intake them. What that tells us is the need is great.
Our long-standing history of supporting Calgary’s homeless and vulnerable youth began in 1996 when Safe Haven Foundation was only a vision built on the personal passion of Karen and John Sherbut, and from Karen’s own experience as a homeless youth. After the organization was founded in that same year, the plans begin to move forward, and we received our charitable license in 1999. In one short year after that, we raised $750,000, developed the program, secured the land, built the duplex, and created the team ready to execute the first program of its kind in Canada, our Haven’s Way® homes. These are indeed the homes that Calgary built.
Haven’s Way is an innovative program that duplicates a healthy, caring family environment. It is a voluntary, long-term supportive housing program that assists girls between the ages of 14-24 who do not have child welfare status and have a focus and commitment to completing their education. The average time a girl will live at Haven’s Way is two and a half years and over 95 youth have called Haven’s Way home since it opened in November 2000. Work is also done on understanding family relationships for the girls as part of their individualized support.
The youth we serve have experienced considerable housing instability, alongside additional risks such as: mental health, physical and sexual abuse, violence, neglect, addictions, trauma, family conflict, violence, and sexual exploitation. We are committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion in supporting the girls, their families, and natural supports. We walk alongside newcomer youth who have little to no family in Canada helping them navigate the immigration systems and enrolling them in school. 15% of young people we have supported in the past 15 years have self-identified as Indigenous, Metis or Inuit and we provide a safe place for them, as well as for other youth who are part of the BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ communities.
Safe Haven Foundation’s newest initiative, Haven’s Harbour, will provide subsidized housing and supports for 9 additional young women who are pursuing post-secondary education. Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood can be an exciting and overwhelming time. Living independently and making your way in the world can be scary, but most young people do not feel alone because they have family and natural supports with them through this new chapter. For youth with prior experience in homelessness, exposed to significant trauma, living with mental health disorders, overcoming substance abuse, and separated from their families, it can be scary and intimidating. Because of these hurdles and their needs, our youth may require some level of ongoing support while learning to live independently. By opening Haven’s Harbour, Safe Haven Foundation will be able to provide a third type of housing support to youth, which will round out our existing House Parent and Peer Mentor Models provided in our Haven’s Way long-term homes. Youth will be able to practice the life skills learned at Haven’s Way with the security of affordable housing.
From intake we create space for all girls to share who they are, what culture and community they connect with and what they would like to explore. We review their rights on a regular basis, regardless of how they self-identify and strongly believe that all young people should be given freedom and choice to connect with those supports that feel most comfortable to them.
Our Alumni Program ensures the youth continue to have a sense of belonging, community and familial supports which are essential in their journey to self-sufficiency. The other main program components, the Educational Scholarship and Therapeutic Recreation Programs, provide the Haven’s Way and Haven’s Harbour youth and Alumni opportunities to pursue post-secondary education, explore their individual passions and participate in extra-curricular activities.
The youth will come to Haven’s Harbour through Haven’s Way and other like-minded programs and as such will not need intensive case management. The overall goal is creating space and time for youth to make the dual transition from homelessness to housed, from adolescent to adulthood, while being in a supportive environment where they can grow and reach their goals at their own individual pace. It is our expectation that these youth will be in the 17-26 age range which is more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule as some flexibility will be required based on individual needs.
An on-site Community Hub will have designated space to build community for positive youth through mentorship opportunities, life skills and employment training, food security, personal safety, and enhancing physical and mental health and overall wellbeing. The Community Hub will bring together Alumni, Haven’s Harbour and Haven’s Way youth as well as their families and natural supports, increasing our potential reach far beyond the number of individuals we are able to support through our Haven’s Way program. This inclusive space will also offer opportunities for youth and their families to explore and connect to their cultures and learn from Knowledge Keepers, Elders, and provide resources to those within the 2SLGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities.
Funding for both our Haven’s Way and Haven’s Harbour programs is always top of mind. We do not receive any fee for service funding from the government or funding from the United Way. Our sustainability and growth are due to the amazing generosity of our community of donors; family foundations, corporations, individual donors and third-party fundraisers and events. The inability to hold fundraising events since the onset of the pandemic has meant that we have had to dig deep in finding new donors to offset the lost event revenues (which accounted for nearly 43%).
We are currently embarking on a $2.4 million Capital Campaign for Haven’s Harbour. An apartment building has been purchased in the South Calgary area and will be undergoing renovations of the suites, as well as future plans for the Community Hub, patio space, community garden and other upgrades as funding allows. We welcome cash and in-kin donations and can offer meaningful naming recognition opportunities. Haven’s Harbour is scheduled to open in Fall 2022, and we invite you to invest in this important opportunity. Together we can build a better future and create a lasting impact for Calgary’s youth.
Please contact us for further information on funding opportunities and biggest needs for our programs.