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'It's such a tremendous relief': Youth shelter coming to Duncan, B.C.

Duncan, B.C., is seen from above. Duncan, B.C., is seen from above.
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Colleen Davis spends her days working with kids who have fallen through the cracks in the Cowichan Valley. Many of them are living on the streets.

“The clients that we’re working with all have complex and often severe mental health challenges,” said Davis, a mental health and substance use clinician with Island Health.

With no youth shelter in the Cowichan Valley, those kids, all under the age of 18, are the most vulnerable portion of the region’s homeless population.

“There’s always a portion of them who have nowhere safe to go at the end of our shift,” said Davis.

This reality gives her constant concern, though soon change could bring some solace after her shifts are over.

“We are working to open up a new youth emergency shelter here in Duncan,” said Grace Lore, B.C.’s minister of children and family development.

It will be a partnership between the province, Cowichan Tribes and other community groups based in the Cowichan Valley.

“It is such a tremendous relief to know that my team doesn’t have to go through another winter without there being a safe space for youth to go at night,” said the clinician.

A recent homeless count in central Duncan revealed 423 people are living on the street. Seventeen of those counted were youth.

“These are the ones that are at the highest risk of overdose losses and of exploitation,” said Erin Kapela, Cowichan Tribes mental health manager.

She says the shelter will be for all youth from the ages of 15 to 18 years old.

“We need to be able to wrap our arms around these youth and provide them with the safety and care that they need,” said Kapela.

The shelter will come with supports that will help those youth heal.

“We want the youth in the centre and we just wrap around so we can close the gaps,” said the mental health manager.

A location hasn’t yet been established, although it will be located within Duncan’s core. Planning is still in the works, meaning how many beds the shelter will provide is still unclear.

“We don’t want any of these youth falling off the cliff,” said Kapela.

Stakeholders say this shelter will give vulnerable youth the supports they need, which is currently missing in the Cowichan Valley.

“It means healing some of that heartbreak that we’re having to deal with on a daily basis,” said Davis.

The shelter will hopefully provide relief for not only those youth living on the streets, but the heroes who are there to help.

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