SOS Children’s Village transition homes set Surrey youth up for future

Charity expands to better help a particularly vulnerable segment of the population – children aging out of foster care once they turn 19

Zack sits in his new home

SURREY — Sitting in his new home, Zack takes stock of what’s in it.

Large furniture fills the small basement suite.

“I might not keep that one, I’m not sure yet,” he says, gesturing to a sizable square coffee table. “It’s pretty big.”

Zack, who asked that the Now not publish his last name, grew up in SOS Children’s Village in Surrey, which takes in children in the foster system. The organization houses about four dozen children in 12 local homes and helps hundreds more through its outreach programs.

But the charity has just expanded to better help a particularly vulnerable segment of the population – children aging out of foster care once they turn 19.

Zack was the first adult to move into one of three “transition” suites for youth to help them establish a sense of independence.

He was just five years old when he was first removed from the care of his parents.

His mother struggled with a mental illness, his father, with alcohol addiction.

“They couldn’t care for me,” said the 20-year-old. “It wasn’t that they didn’t want to.”

For the next five years he bounced back and forth – from foster care to his father – until he entered SOS at 10 years old.

He said he had his first taste of normalcy at home at one of SOS’s Surrey villages (pictured).

“I was one of those kids that just needed boundaries,” he recalled. “My foster mom really gave that to me. That helped me to grow.”

He’s currently attending a music program at Douglas College and wants to become a high school band teacher.

But moving out on his own was a scary thought, he said, and the new suite will help set him up for a successful future.

“I’ve been working at a bakery for about three years now, but there’s always the matter of bills to pay and this will help quite a bit,” said Zack.

“The rent starts at a fairly low rate and $100 of that each month goes into a savings account that I get once I move out.”

The program also allows the residents to earn their furniture and household items for when they move out on their own.

SOS’s B.C. director Douglas Dunn (pictured during construction of the transition suites) said the results can be tragic when children “age out” of care.

“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, and 46 per cent are involved in the criminal justice system within two years of their 18th birthday, said Dunn.

SOS’s new Surrey suites – three of which are completed, with two more in the works – will help tackle the epidemic, said Dunn.

He noted there are 60 to 80 homeless youth in Surrey at any given time, and said the new suites could reduce the number of homeless youth by up to eight per cent.

Bob Rasmus, on the SOS’s board of directors, met Zack as he toured the suite during the grand opening last week. Rasmus helped garner donations, for things like countertop and hardware, through his connections in the building industry.

He was touched to meet one of the residents.

“I am so pleased, I really am, to be able to help out,” said Rasmus.

“To see them actually put to use and see the end user being able to benefit from it, that’s the payoff. And the payoff will also be when they succeed in what they’re doing.”

“I really do appreciate it,” Zack said to Rasmus. “Here, you’re less of a number and more of a person.”

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

Just Posted

Surrey to get a RapidBus route

It will run on King George Blvd. between Guildford Town Centre and Newton Exchange along upgraded 96 B-Line

Safe Surrey denies motions from three councillors who split from mayor’s coalition

Motions were related to examining bylaw structure, and embarking on ‘town hall’ style budget consultation

Waterfront workshops today in White Rock

City to host opportunities ‘to shape area’s future’

OUR VIEW: Surrey’s festivals are world-class

Surrey should well be proud to be home to these outstanding events

Renegades ‘04 win provincial title after all-White Rock fastpitch final

Both Semiahmoo Peninsula fastpitch squads will head to U16 nationals in Calgary

VIDEO: Missing teens named as suspects in three northern B.C. killings

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky are wanted in the deaths of Lucas Fowler, Chynna Deese, unknown man

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Weather Network’s anti-meat video ‘doesn’t reflect true story’: cattle ranchers

At issue is the video’s suggestion that cutting back on meat consumption could help save the planet

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

Wrestling legend finds his wedding dance groove in B.C.

Professional wrestler Chris Jericho posted on social media that he was in Penticton recently

Vancouver Public Library banned from Pride parade after allowing controversial speaker

Vancouver Public Library allowed Meghan Murphy to book space for an event at the library in January

Man arrested after allegedly attacking people with syringe in Burnaby mall

Police say that no one has yet to come forward with injuries consistent with needle stab wounds

Limited-stop RapidBus service to roll out in Metro Vancouver starting January 2020

TransLink announced five routes that connect 11 communities

Horgan hints at Daylight Saving Time changes after record survey response

More than 223,000 online surveys were submitted in the government’s public consultation

Most Read