New shelter opens for homeless youth

NANAIMO – Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre offers roof, hot drinks at Haliburton Street.

Homeless youth, looking for refuge from frigid temperatures, can find a bed and hot drink at Tillicum Lelum’s Haliburton Street health centre.

Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre has opened a 12-bed cold and wet weather shelter, with city-funding supporting the service.

Nanaimo city council moved to find a solution to shelter youth from the cold earlier this month after hearing some were sleeping outdoors. It also agreed to spend up to $75,000 on beds this season.

A city staff report says there’s about 10-15 youth on the streets without access to shelter and clear evidence the current youth shelter is not sufficient to address the population of young people who do not have a home.

Most of the time, the youth safe house on Tenth Street is full and has a wait list, said Tillicum Lelum executive director Grace Elliott-Nielsen.

The new cold weather shelter opened Dec. 16 with one person using it as of Wednesday.

“Right now it’s not being used to the capacity, but who knows what’s going to happen, especially over the holidays because some kids then end up there because of drugs and abuse in the home,” Elliott-Nielsen said.

The city’s partners have been terrific about coming forward and making the shelter happen, according to city social planner John Horn, who said with all the money in the world the City of Nanaimo is not able to run such a thing, especially with a two-week turn around.

Horn said the main thing is youth are out of the cold and safe from predators and then the hope is if Tillicum Lelum does have youth coming in they are not seeing anywhere else, they can draw them to services and connect with them.

The shelter at 602 Haliburton St. is open from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. with light snacks and hot drinks available.