SOS Children’s Village expanding in Surrey to help youth aging out of foster care

SOS building five basement suites in Surrey to help foster kids transition to adulthood

Executive director of SOS Children's Village B.C. Douglas Dunn stands in one of the secondary suites being built to be used to help youth aging out of foster care gain independence.

SURREY — Walking past the polished Newton home, you’d never guess a six-day-old crack-addicted baby had just moved in.

You also wouldn’t guess the home was one of 12 in Surrey custom-built for foster care by SOS Children’s Village.

Blending right in, several homes in this neighbourhood house foster families, giving foster children – who either suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome or were drug-addicted at birth – a chance to be part of a real family.

The international organization already houses about four dozen children in the 12 local homes, including the infant that joined a home this week, and helps hundreds more through its outreach programs.

(PICTURED: The Surrey “village,” shown left, shows paths connecting homes and a playground. The property also has a communal building for therapy, entertainment and more.)

But SOS is now expanding to better help a particularly vulnerable segment of the population – children aging out of foster care once they turn 19.

Executive director of SOS Children’s Village B.C. Douglas Dunn said the tragic realities of this circumstance are no secret.

“They show up with knives in their pocket ready to commit suicide,” he said.

Eighty to 90 per cent of the kids aging out at 19 end up on welfare within six months, 46 per cent are involved in the criminal justice system within two years of their 18th birthday, and less than 20 per cent graduate high school compared to the provincial average of about 80 per cent, said Dunn.

Also shocking is 66 per cent of homeless people identified as having been in foster care in a study by United Way.

To help tackle the epidemic, SOS is building secondary suites in five of its Surrey homes for youth aged 16 to 24 to help them establish some sense of independence.

Once built, the transition suite program will allow youth six months to a year to develop life skills, participate in work shops and therapy, all while becoming part of the “village” community.

“We’re coming up with a transition to adulthood, structured program,” said Dunn.

“We already have a team on the street that does one-on-one work walking alongside youth but that is more of a crisis, homelessness, emergency response.”

He said many of those youth would benefit from a more structured approach and that’s where the suites come in.

And they won’t leave empty handed when their time is up.

“Most kids leave foster care without anything other than a few clothes. Over their time here they will earn the apartment,” explained Dunn. “By the end of their stay, everything in there, the bed, dressers, the drawers, the computer, the microwave, everything will be theirs.”

He added, “That’s a big psychological thing.”

Dunn noted there’s 60 to 80 homeless youth in Surrey at any given time.

“So to have five to 10 a year going through our program, that’s an eight to 10 per cent reduction in Surrey. It’s not going to solve it but it will reduce it.”

The project had been delayed as SOS came up against some technicalities at city hall.

When SOS subdivided the properties, there was apparently a “no secondary suite” restriction written in.

“So it took nearly a year to extinguish that. But everyone was very helpful, the city didn’t put up any barriers. We’re glad we finally got through that,” said Dunn.

But the work isn’t over.

The organization has been running a capital campaign – Say Yes to the Village, No to the Streets! – since June 2014 and has raised $210,000 to date, including two anonymous donations of $100,000 and $60,000. But another $40,000 is needed.

The final push for those dollars will continue this year.

It’s expected the suites will be finished in eight to 10 weeks.

To give, visit www.Sosbc.org/notothestreets.

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

Just Posted

Fire destroys home in Surrey

Crews called at 3 a.m. Sunday for a residential house fire on the 12000-block of 100 Avenue

Alzheimer’s Society launches helpline

Toll-free phone line available for people with dementia and their caretakers

Art show to be held at White Rock’s Jan’s on the Beach

Art to be displayed until the end of December

New detox centre opens in South Surrey

WhiteRock EHN opened in response to opioid crisis

1st Indigenous woman to start Canadian airline looks to B.C.’s remote regions

Teara Fraser is the first Indigenous woman in Canada to start her own airline, called Iskwew Air

5 to start your day

B.C. cracks down on ‘dirty money,’ homicide detectives investigate Maple Ridge death and more

Bankruptcies in British Columbia on the rise

Consumer bankruptcies climbed by 6. 1 per cent in August 2018 from the same month last year.

22 public toilets in Victoria: 136 people currently peeing

World Toilet Day floats some serious health issues

Calgary Stampeders back to Grey Cup with 22-14 win over Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Calgary was favoured to win the 2017 and 2016 Grey Cups, but lost to the Toronto Argonauts and Ottawa Redblacks respectively.

‘A giant step forward’: new $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond to enter circulation

A new $10 banknote featuring Viola Desmond’s portrait will go into circulation, just over 72 years after she was ousted from the whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, N.S.

Searchers in California wildfire step up efforts; 77 dead

Trump arrived at the oceanside conclave Saturday afternoon after visiting Northern California to survey the wildfire damage in the town of Paradise.

Trump says ‘no reason’ for him to hear Khashoggi death tape

“It’s a suffering tape, it’s a terrible tape. I’ve been fully briefed on it, there’s no reason for me to hear it,” Trump said in the interview.

Canada Post calls for ‘cooling off’ period to allow for mediated talks

The proposal came as Canada Post workers continued their rotating strikes Monday after rejecting the Crown agency’s latest offer.

Most Read