Refuge youth centre in Oshawa banks $5 million from provincial government


Published October 13, 2023 at 1:21 pm

Reguge youth

The Refuge in Oshawa is getting a financial lifeline from the provincial government with nearly $5 million in funding to help create 26 supportive housing units for homeless youth in Oshawa.

The two-storey former Holy Cross Catholic School building on Simcoe Street (between downtown and Highway 401) will include studio apartments as well as four accessible units. It will also have a community centre on the main floor. Residents will have access to laundry facilities, shared common space, and storage lockers.

The funding announcement was made on site Friday by newly-minted Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Callandra by Paul Calandra.

“Our government’s housing plan is designed to ensure that all Ontarians have a safe place to call home, and that includes supporting our most vulnerable residents,” Calandra said. “Supportive housing not only provides people in need with a roof over their head, it also connects them to services that can give them an opportunity for a better life. That is why this funding is such a key part of our government’s work to tackle the housing crisis.”

Friday’s announcement is part of the province’s Social Services Relief Fund, which has provided more than $1.2 billion in support throughout the pandemic, to help municipal service managers and Indigenous program administrators create longer-term housing solutions and help vulnerable people in Ontario, including those who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.

“Our country is currently grappling with one of the most intricate crises involving health, homelessness, mental health, and addiction that we have ever encountered,” said Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter, who said the team at the Refuge “work tirelessly” to provide solution-based services for youth in the city. “This investment of $5 million is welcome news for Oshawa and The Refuge Youth Centre. The affordable housing apartment project currently under construction will become a reality thanks to this funding.”

Refuge Executive Director Clarence Keesman expressed gratitude for the funding, saying the money will give vulnerable youth a place to call home and also “hope for a positive future.”

“It is so difficult for us at The Refuge to see homeless, street and at-risk youth struggle to find affordable and appropriate housing. The toll that sleeping on the street takes on their mental, emotional and physical health is noticeable and saddening.”

Residents will be close to schools, grocery stores, transit, and employment opportunities. In addition, other community organizations will be invited to provide services on site.

The building will also be energy efficient and accessible, with an elevator and wide hallways.

“This investment will make a big difference as our local partners work to tackle homelessness and help more people find a safe place to live, noted Durham MPP Todd McCarthy, adding that the funding will some of the most vulnerable residents in Oshawa and Durham find a home that “meets their needs.”

Queen’s Park is also investing an additional $202 million each year in homelessness prevention programs – the Homelessness Prevention Program and Indigenous Supportive Housing Program – bringing Ontario’s total yearly investment to close to $700 million. This includes an increase of $7 million over the next three years for Durham Region, bringing the total to nearly $19 million annually.

“The Refuge Youth Housing project is another great example of how our government is working with partners across this province to help create housing for those who need it,” chimed in Whitby MPP Lorne Coe. “They will be provided not only a safe place to call home but also connected to the support services they need on-site.”

Durham Region was allocated more than $32 million through all phases of the Social Services Relief Fund to deliver critical services such as shelters, food banks and emergency services.

Service managers and Indigenous program administrators have the flexibility to allocate provincial funding to programs and services that address and prevent homelessness in their communities, such as rent supplements, homeless shelters, and supportive housing including capital projects.

“We are fortunate in Durham Region to have community partners who are dedicated to helping shape a better future for some of our most vulnerable residents,” said Durham Region Chair John Henry. “This significant provincial investment will help the Refuge Youth Outreach Centre in Oshawa to address some of the unique challenges related to youth housing and homelessness prevention. It will help put a roof over their heads, while also providing access to wraparound supports – a key step in our goal of reducing homelessness in our community.”

The former Holy Cross school is being converted to the new home of the Refuge Youth Centre, complete with 27 apartments for homeless youth


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