Queen's University will temporarily offer beds to at risk youth in the community, making MacGillivray-Brown Hall available as a stopgap for the Kingston Youth Shelter.
Construction began today in the space that will temporarily provide a home for the emergency shelter, with a goal to have sixteen sleeping pods erected and ready for usage by the first week of April.
The pods will be 6 feet wide, 8 feet long and 8 feet high.
Habitat for Humanity Kingston CEO Cathy Borowec says although the organization is typically more involved in building affordable home units (like those currently under construction in the East end), they were happy to offer the building services they could to a project that fills another dire need in the community.
"Habitat sits with affordable housing at the other side of the housing continuum from the shelters, but we recognize the need for housing at every level," Borowec said.
Throughout the pandemic, the Youth Shelter has been utilizing a building provided by the City of Kingston, which they say they can no longer offer.
The Youth Center's Executive Director Anne Brown says the process is underway to purchase a building near Concession Street and Nelson Street, with the expectation of closing on that building in July.
In the interim, Queen's will provide the gymnasium space that had primarily been used for intramurals until fall.
The project has come together from the planning stages over the past couple of months, in large part thanks to the support of a number of organizations like Queen's, Habitat for Humanity in the building of pods, United Way KFL&A and Kingston Limestone Region and Atkinson Home Hardware who donated the pods.
Brown says having a supportive community like the one in Kingston allows for this shelter to get off the ground rather quickly and run successfully.
"We're so lucky in Kingston that we have such a supportive community," Brown said.
"The youth shelter and the youth that we serve wouldn't be able to survive without the support of our community."
The shelter provides a bed to those needing it between the ages of 16-24.
The space in Mac-Brown will work in conjunction with the Youth Shelter's location on Brock Street, which has had to cut down to only six beds but also provides access to amenities like breakfast, laundry, showers and internet.
The new space will come at a time when space is expected to be needed, as Brown says typically more youth seek to use the shelter in the months of July and August.
Brown says the Emergency Youth Shelter operates with a goal of stopping youth in precarious situations from slipping into chronic homelessness, and helping them access the skills and services they need.
"They really don't have the skills to cope on their own, they don't know how to budget, they don't know sometimes how to do their own laundry," Brown said.
"They don't have the emotional support behind them to be successful in that, and we're trying to help them get to that stage and set up some wrap around services in the community for them so they can leave homelessness and become successful in their housing situation."
Brown said when approached, Queen's was excited to be able to offer a hand to the Youth Shelter, and it really just became a matter of finding an appropriate space.
In a statement, Queen's Vice Principal of Finance and Administration Donna Janiec said the university was happy to accommodate a service that is so necessary to the community.
"Queen’s is committed to making a positive impact in the Kingston community. That impact happens when the university works in partnership with local organizations that are making a difference, like Kingston Youth Shelter," Janiec's statement read.
"The effects of the pandemic have exacerbated the growing issue of youth homelessness and Kingston Youth Shelter continues to provide a critical service in the city. As they prepare to move into a new facility this fall, Kingston Youth Shelter was in need of a temporary space. We are pleased that Queen’s was able to accommodate the Kingston Youth Shelter requirements by providing a temporary location.”
When the new building is ready, the pods will be deconstructed and reassembled at the new location.
Donation info for Kingston's Youth Shelter can be found here.
Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News for the Local Journalism Initiative