Kingston Youth Shelter seeks donations to complete new emergency shelter

The newly opened Kingston Youth Shelter on Nelson Street can accommodate 12 beds. Staff are hoping to secure additional donations to complete work on the facility, which will increase capacity to 24 beds. Photo by Dylan Chenier/ Kingstonist.

Staff with Kingston Youth Shelter (KYS) are looking to secure approximately $190,000 in donations from the community to help complete construction at the organization’s new emergency shelter at 365 Nelson Street. In 2022, KYS purchased the previous home of 5678 Dance Studio in the hopes of expanding operations to accommodate more homeless youth. On Tuesday, Jul. 11, 2023, members of the media were given a tour of the new facility, which already includes 12 beds, allowing the organization to serve more clients. 

“Each individual gets their own little sleeping pod. We try to make it so that it’s not really ‘homey,’ but welcoming. Individuals… will come in after [5 p.m.] and they have to be out [of the beds] by 7 a.m., but they don’t need to leave the facility,” remarked Jay Nowak, executive director of KYS. Unlike previous locations, the site on Nelson Street does not force the youth to leave during the day. 

Nowak added, “One of the difficulties with [our previous locations]….was that we had to be out of MacGillivray-Brown Hall at a certain time, and then our day services would be moved over to Brock Street and there was a disconnect with clientele, because usually once you leave the place, you’re going to go somewhere else where your friends are, and you’re going to do other things. We found that being able to have daytime services all in one location [will] allow us to connect with the youth a lot easier.” On top of emergency shelter space, KYS offers transition services and family support for clients.

In total, the organization established a $1.5 million budget to purchase the facility and renovate it to meet the needs of an emergency youth shelter. To date, KYS has raised $1,310,000, with the majority of donations coming from organizations like the Britton Smith Foundation and the United Way KFL&A. So far, KYS has completed one sleeping pod area, as well as a kitchen and bathroom space. The additional funds will be used to cover the costs to covert two more rooms on site to accommodate additional bed space, including adding a new window as per building code regulations. Once the entire project is complete, the shelter will be able to accommodate 24 beds. 

In order to raise the $190,000 needed to finish the project, KYS has launched a fundraising drive, encouraging all Kingstonians to contribute just $1.50, which, according to KYS director Anne Brown, is “less than the price of a medium cup of coffee.”

“If you look at the population of Kingston, if every citizen gave $1.50… we would be over the hump with room to spare,” she said, noting there is very minimal work to be done.

Brown went on to add the organization intends to finish construction before the cold weather sets in later this fall. “We want to make sure we can get more youth in before the cold weather comes. I know throughout the pandemic we were up to over 20 kids every night; they didn’t have any place to go. [In Kingston,] our summers are harsh, our winters are harsh, and we don’t want them out on the street,” added the director. 

With KYS operating at a limited capacity until construction is finished, Nowak said the organization has had to turn away potential clients in the recent past due to a lack of available beds.

“We’re not turning away droves right now, but there are occasions at night [where] we have to tell them that they, unfortunately, have to find other accommodations,” he explained. 

According to Nowak, youth who are unable to stay at KYS often end up in precarious situations, such as on a friend’s couch, or even on the streets, due to the fact that shelter options for those under the age of 25 are extremely limited in the city of Kingston. “We are the only shelter dedicated to 16 to 24 [age group], some of the other shelters, such as the Concession Street Centre, do allow youth, but the Adelaide [drop-in centre] does not and neither does In From the Cold,” he said.

Nowak went on to say that, while the Integrated Care Hub does allow youth clients, staff at KYS try to encourage youth to seek accommodations elsewhere. 

“We are trying to persuade youth not to go to the Hub, just because of the clientele that are there. A safe injection site is not the ideal location for youth to be hanging out… so, we are trying to get them to come here,” said Nowak. 

As for how the emergency shelter has been perceived by area residents, Nowak said the organization has conducted community outreach with the support of Kingscourt Rideau District Councillor Brandon Tozzo. “Councillor Tozzo has been very supportive of us. I think we have a good working relationship and were trying to do some good things in the neighbourhood and do some outreach for the community, as well. For the most part, [the response from the community] has been positive.” 

Those who wish to contribute to KYS’s fundraising efforts can find more information on the organization’s website. Tax receipts can be issued for donations of $10 or more. 

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