More youth in the north requiring emergency shelter will be able to access the supports they need thanks to an additional investment of more than $625,000 by the Government of Saskatchewan to increase spaces of the YWCA Prince Albert’s Youth Transitional Housing Service (YTHS).
The expansion of YTHS enables the YWCA to increase spaces from eight to 10, providing vulnerable 16-year-old to 18-year-old youth with a short-term, stable home environment where they are safe from gangs, sexual exploitation, drug use and at-risk lifestyles.
The additional investment will also allow for around the clock staff and for the YWCA to open up their services to youth with complex needs, including mental health and addictions.
“We’ve struggled for years; we’ve seen the need in the youth, but we’ve never had the staffing level or funding level to really address the needs. It was more just providing a bed,” said YWCA Prince Albert Chief Executive Officer Donna Brooks. “Now with this level of staffing, we can actually look at addressing the needs of complex youth because when youth come to a shelter, they’re facing some pretty significant barriers sometimes.”
The announcement was made Monday morning outside YWCA Prince Albert by Brooks and MLA Alana Ross, who were joined by representatives of P.A. Outreach and members of the YTHS.
“Youth services are an important part of our overall programming, and the increased funding for our Youth Transitional Housing Services will increase service quality here at Central Avenue,” said Brooks. “We’re excited to be able to offer higher levels of staff support, more comprehensive youth-centered programming and wider youth community engagement. This expansion means keeping more youth safe and creating opportunities for building positive and fulfilling futures.”
On behalf of Social Services Minister Gene Makowsky, Ross said the enhanced funding in YTHS is another step towards ensuring children and youth remain in their home communities where possible.
“This is a very exciting partnership for us and it’s to a very good cause,” said Ross. “Our YWCA does such tremendous work in our province and the youth group’s participation is just crucial. We appreciate that involvement and are looking forward to working with them more in the future.”
According to Colleen Baliski with P.A. Outreach, the youth advisory team was a major driver behind the expansion of YTHS.
“For the youth to have this happen today is [a] great surprise,” said Baliski. “It will be great for our youth now to know that there is a place for them to go if they should need.”
The youth advisory team meets once or twice a week to discuss topics or concerns they want to bring forward. Anything said at the meeting is shared with a manager from social services and taken to further management, said Baliski.
“The youth, sometimes they’re in crisis, they need to leave home or they’re kind of in transition to new housing and one of their main concerns was there was no place for them to go,” said Baliski. “Some of the shelters they were too young for, so they brought forward that they needed an emergency shelter for them to go, just until they could find alternate housing. This was one of the things that they had asked for.”
Youth can access YTHS 24/7 for up to 30 days and receive support to transition to longer term housing. Staff support the youth to successfully engage or re-engage with extended family and cultural connections, in education, training programs, pre-employment or employment.
In 2023-2024, the Government of Saskatchewan has allocated more than $910,000 to expand the YTHS in Prince Albert.