Last Updated on August 31, 2022 by Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Kingston Youth Shelter is moving closer to having a permanent home after a long process in seeking an improved space.

The shelter provides a safe environment for youth from 16-24 encountering an immediate or ongoing housing crisis.

On Thursday the youth shelter announced that their new facility will be located at 365 Nelson Street, with the building being purchased in July 2022.

Currently, the shelter’s permanent location at 234 Brock Street can only offer six beds to those in need, and the new space will be able to house as many as 24 individuals overnight.

Anne Brown, Executive Director of Kingston Youth Shelter, said that in the past the shelter hasn’t had more than 22 kids looking for a bed at a time, and time will tell if the new total of 24 spaces will be enough to meet the need during winter months.

Kingston Youth Shelter has also been operating a temporary shelter out of Queen’s Mac Brown Hall since late March, erecting 16 sleeping pods measuring 6x8x8 in the unused gymnasium space.

The space at Mac Brown hall will no longer be used by the shelter, but its Brock Street location will remain open to youth for services like showers, laundry and speaking to councillors.

While the permanence of the new location and especially additional beds will be warmly welcomed by the Youth Shelter, Executive Director Anne Brown says the new space will also provide better ability to deliver programming to youth in need.

In addition to private space for a prevention diversion worker and family mediation worker on staff, Brown says the space provides more opportunities outdoors as well, potentially looking to construct a community garden after moving in.

“The programming opportunities will be a lot greater than in the space that we’re in now,” Brown said.

“We’ll also have more space to provide different programming… it just presents a whole new world in terms of the amount of space we have both inside and outside.”

With the building purchased, Youth Shelter staff and patrons now await the September 1st zoning committee meeting as they look to turn the building from a residential property to an emergency crisis centre.

While Brown says city staff seem to be confident in the viability of the building rezoning, the surrounding community will be able to have its’ say before renovations get underway – primarily on the kitchen and bathrooms in the space.

Brown says while the process has been long and costly, city staff have been helpful along the way.

“The city staff have been amazing in coaching us along and providing background information of what we need to do,” Brown said.

“It has been onerous in the sense that it’s been time consuming and rather expensive to get to this point but I certainly understand why.”

Previously the building was a dance studio, and before that a muffler shop.

In February, Kingston Youth Shelter set out to raise $1.5 million to cover the cost of moving to a new and improved building, and to this point with the help of organizations like United Way KFL&A, who provided both financial support and expertise in running a capital campaign, the shelter has raised $1.15 million.

Brown says that amount has been enough to cover the cost of purchasing this new space, but the shelter is still seeking out additional funding to help cover remaining costs of things like contractors and consultants, looking to do so through community donations and applying for grants.

She added that through speaking to contractors she has gotten the sense that renovations should only take up to six weeks, and if all goes to plan with rezoning she anticipates they’ll be able to move in by November when the current agreement to stay in Queen’s Mac Brown hall is set to expire.

In addition to donations to help cover remaining costs, Brown said that there will also be work to be done as far as moving and getting things in the new location ready that the shelter could use eventual volunteers for.

“The exterior of the building really is in need of cutting away the brush that’s coming up by the siding,” Brown said.

“When we go to move we could certainly use help in packing, loading boxes, and helping to unpack and set up furniture once we’re in the new space.”

More information on the shelter and a donation portal can be found here.

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