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Victoria organization that offers housing to youth receives massive $3.1M donation

One of the beds at Threshold Housing Society's facility in James Bay is shown. One of the beds at Threshold Housing Society's facility in James Bay is shown.

The Threshold Housing Society received a $3.1 million gift that will help provide housing and support for youth in Greater Victoria who are at risk of homelessness or fleeing violence.

The donation from Victoria philanthropists Clint and Carole Forster was facilitated by the Victoria Foundation and RBC Phillips Hager & North Investment Counsel.

In a news release, Clint Forster said, "giving to people in need has always been important in our family, through volunteering as well as through financial gifts. Our investment counsellor understands that and has helped us connect with the Victoria Foundation, who has the pulse of local community needs."

In addition to providing supportive housing, the Threshold Housing Society – in partnership with Island Health – operates the only residential addictions recovery program for young people between the ages of 15 and 21 on Vancouver Island.

The organization runs an eight-bed supportive recovery program at its Niagara Street facility in Victoria’s James Bay neighbourhood.

"Not only is homelessness a crisis, but the opioid epidemic is a crisis," said Threshold Housing Society executive director Colin Tessier.

"Our Niagara House supportive recovery program is a refuge for people to get space from substance use, to try to get some length in recovery and get access to some healing," he said.

The Niagara House facility is staffed 24 hours a day and supports youth in substance recovery with a program manager, case managers, cultural wellness workers and provides access to clinical resources.

"For us it represents a beacon of safety in this community for young people who are lost out there, are at risk of overdose or other harms," said Tessier.

"It is a safe home in our community where young people with histories of substance use far longer than they should at their age have an opportunity for recovery, stabilizing in life, and the program is showing incredible results," he added.

The society will use $1.6 million of the donation to pay off the mortgage of the Niagara Street facility that was purchased in 2021. The $92,000 that the society will save in annual mortgage payments for the property will be redirected to other areas of need within the agency.

"It allows Threshold to have more flexibility and more resources," said Tessier. "We can now redirect those operational resources that we save to different program activities and its profound the impact that it's going to have on Threshold and our community.”

The remainder of the $3.1 million gift will be used to purchase eight self-contained units in a housing complex on Granite Street in Oak Bay.

The "Threshold House" property will provide secure housing for eight young people and a live-in caretaker.

The Threshold Housing Society has been leasing the housing complex from the Oak Bay United Church for the past six years. The church’s congregation agreed to sell the property to the hosing society in 2021.

"Youth homelessness is a crisis in our community, we do not have enough youth housing," said Tessier. "Threshold is prepared to act boldly to expand access, but we need support like this to do it."

Tessier says by allowing youth the opportunity to access safe housing it offers them a better life and a better future than they would otherwise have.

"The outcomes lead to a young person who graduates [from our program living] sustainably and healthy," said Tessier.

"In follow-up interviews we do with our youth up to 18 months after graduation, the most recent stats show over 90 per cent of youth remain safely housed in the community," he said. "We just want to keep building that out and keep growing the access to this program so we can continue to show those results." Top Stories

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