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The year ahead and the housing imperative – Aunt Leah’s takes action

2024 promises to be a challenging year for people living with limited means, especially in Metro Vancouver. Aunt Leah’s and the youth we serve know all too well that finding and keeping adequate housing has reached crisis proportions.

An all too common story

Young man sitting outside, thinking

Jason came to Aunt Leah’s last year. He had aged out of the foster system and was living rough around the New Westminster community. His experiences with shelters had been negative. He felt safer living outside until a permanent home could be found. He came into our community hub to warm up, shower, eat, and take food, clothes, and a sleeping bag to sustain him while we looked for housing for him.

It took us three months to find him an adequate place to live. His plan to go back to school was on hold. Even with six months of housing subsidies from the provincial government, all we could find for him was a room in a shared house for $1100. He has been there for a month only to have one of his roommates exhibit violent behaviour and steal some of his belongings. The search begins again…..

As so often we have done in the past, Aunt Leah’s will step up to address the immense need for stable and safe housing for young people. We’ve reimagined our strong relationship with Aunt Leah’s Foundation through a rebrand as Aunt Leah’s Properties, which reflects the symbiotic relationship between the two organizations. Together, we provide housing by buying, building, and managing facilities while offering all the support necessary for youth to move toward independence successfully. Find the new Aunt Leah’s Properties website at auntleahsproperties.org.

Our first initiative will include adding a laneway house to our newly rebuilt Aunt Leah’s House property in Burnaby. Government funding for the bricks and mortar has been secured, but we are fundraising to close the final $200,000 gap to complete the budget. We’re waiting for the City to finalize permitting as we continue our annual request for support to offer programs for the young women and children who will soon be able to enjoy a new home.

Aunt Leah's House, an overhead photo

We are actively pursuing the purchase of apartment buildings in the community through the new provincial Rental Protection Fund (rentalprotectionfund.ca). This fund allows non-profits to purchase and manage existing affordable housing into the future.  

Our third approach to create more housing stock focuses on applications to BC Housing. We have applied with the endorsement of the City of New Westminster to build 77 housing units in New Westminster on Marine Way. Decisions on this new development will be made by April 2024.

These ambitious initiatives will require every ounce of our dedication and commitment. We are confident in our approach and buoyed by the broad and deep support we receive from you, our supporters. Stand by for further announcements soon, and please reach out anytime to learn more about our ongoing work and these projects.

 

We’ll end with some comments from one of our corporate foundation donors, Don Forsgren, Vice-Chair, Intracorp Foundation and CEO, Intracorp Homes, who writes, “Through the Intracorp Foundation, we collaborate with trusted partners to improve the lives of vulnerable children, youth, and their families. We are proud to support Aunt Leah’s Thresholds program and its mission to provide safe accommodation and wraparound services for new mothers and pregnant women at risk of homelessness. Our dedication to systemic change drives us to connect program participants with community resources, facilitating the development of essential life skills and providing access to education and training opportunities. This, we believe, is vital to helping these young families realize their potential.”

Aunt Leah’s work is more important than ever and we couldn’t do it without the support of Aunt Leah’s community. Thank you for caring so deeply about the lives of some of our most vulnerable young people and families.

Sarah Stewart and Jacqueline Dupuis, Executive Directors, Aunt Leah’s and Aunt Leah’s Properties