Group proposes second location for transitional home

John Howard Society of Saskatchewan CEO Shawn Fraser responds to a question from Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski during a council meeting on Feb. 22, 2021. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

A second application for a group home for at risk male youth will be in front of Prince Albert city council on Monday as the John Howard Society looks to help divert youth from joining gangs.

This application is for a five bedroom home in the West Flat area and would provide services to the residents 24-hours per day.

“We call it Redemption Home,” said Shawn Fraser, CEO of the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan. “So far, all the feedback has been welcoming and encouraging.”

Several organizations have submitted letters of support, including the West Flat Citizens Group.

The home is geared for indigenous males aged 16 to 24 who are at higher risk of joining gangs as they age out of provincial care.

“They are people who might be exiting the youth-care system but it’s a pretty broad catch area and demographic,” said Fraser.

A previous application for a residence near the Kinsmen Park met with some resistance and council did not approve an development application in February, citing concerns about a nearby high school and the park itself.

Programming is unique with part of the focus on land-based education.

“People who are in this program can expect to spend a lot of time outdoors and with employment supports and cultural supports,” Fraser explained.

The John Howard Society operated in Prince Albert decades ago, but stopped in the 1980s. They are now working to re-establish themselves and think they have found a good location in their new application.

In 2020, the Society signed a contract with the federal government to deliver the program.

They are working with the Riverbank Development Corporation, a local non-profit that provides affordable housing in a variety of ways.

Right now, they are renting a home from Riverbank but the application that will be in front of council on Monday is to re-zone the location to allow for a group home.

The nature of the program is transitional so the youth will be there anywhere from six to 18 months.

“We’re taking referrals from agencies around Prince Albert. That might be Social Services, it might be other support organizations. We’re lucking because we’re just starting the program so we get to be selective,” said Fraser.

Beyond the group home, they also help young people to find their own places such as an apartment and then provide support until the person is ready to be completely independent.