BY KALISHA MENDONSA
The Central Alberta Yu-Turn Skill Development Home has seen tremendous success in their first year of operations, with several young men having progressed through the home and into more independent living – the ultimate goal of the facility.
Central Alberta Youth Unlimited (CAYU) executive director Jake Schellenberg said their team remains excited about their ever-changing role in ending youth homelessness
“There is a perception about the youth house that it is a half-way house or youth shelter – that’s not what it is, and it’s not our vision. We’re here to help young people who need a hand. Lots of times, young people have been dealt a hand and a set of issues that they had no control over, and we want to provide a place to support them and work through those issues,” Schellenberg said.
He said that one of the biggest challenges CAYU faces as an organization is to re-define the definition of success for those who participate in their many programs, including the Skills Development House.
Schellenberg explained people tend to define success with the youths in terms of major life changes, rather than recognizing the everyday wins that occur during the process of change.
“What we’re doing with our youth home is gradual work. It’s much more ‘in the trenches’ kind of work,” he said, adding, “I was talking to our youth worker, Melissa Kiper, the other day and she said one of the guys laughed at her joke – that was a huge win!”
A major focus at the Skill Development House is to establish meaningful connections with the young men living there. This means building up trust and developing a rapport that builds confidence and fosters encouragement.
“These are great guys. They really are,” Schellenberg said.
“However, trust is a big issue for them as it is for anyone who has been mistreated. If we are in a situation where we lose trust in someone or they lose trust in us, it’s always difficult to rebuild. That said, our house parent, Johnathan, is doing a fantastic job. He lives there with the guys full-time and connects with them on a regular basis.”
Schellenberg said other huge wins are the guys staying in school, keeping jobs and building supports in their lives that help the young men to stay accountable to their responsibilities.
One of the challenges of the Yu-Turn Home is the new costs CAYU is faced with in terms of maintaining the home and needs of those housed there. The home will also be undergoing some external renovations, including repairs to the roof and a re-built garage.
Schellenberg explained that it costs approximately $1,600 a month to have one youth in a bed. The young men in the home are asked to pay $500 for their stay, but CAYU is still seeking sponsors to help cover additional costs of keeping the home operating.
Sponsors are asked to commit to $250 each month and anyone wishing to participate, personally or through a business, is asked to connect with CAYU as soon as possible.
Although Yu-Turn staff are busy with the youth housing program, they are also keeping up with regular programming that occurs at the main CAYU office on 50th St.
Thursday and Friday nights the doors are open, with after-school programming on Wednesdays as well.