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Aunt Leah’s House Reopening Celebration

January 25, 2023

Opening of the New Aunt Leah’s House Marks its 35th Anniversary

In January 2023, the newly rebuilt Aunt Leah’s House is set to welcome vulnerable women and their babies once again.

VANCOUVER, BCAunt Leah’s Foundation announced today the completion of its most recent social purpose housing project, the rebuilding of the original Aunt Leah’s House. Operated by Aunt Leah’s Place, since the 1980’s, Aunt Leah’s House has been a safe haven for young moms (often in foster care themselves) and their babies to ensure families remain together and not separated by the child welfare system. 

Supported by Aunt Leah’s Place Thresholds Program, moms live in a safe, caring home environment where they can learn how to care for their baby with the guidance of staff and family support workers. “For 35 years this house has been dedicated to keeping families together,” said Sarah Stewart, Executive Director of Aunt Leah’s Place. “During this time more than 400 families have called Aunt Leah’s house home and we are honoured to continue to serve our community in this way.” A former foster parent herself, Gale Stewart, Founder of Aunt Leah’s and B.C. Medal of Good Citizenship Award recipient, saw first-hand the importance of “beginnings” as it applied to the bonding of mom & baby and how she could create a home where these young moms could enjoy the comfort of a lovely space, good food and intimate times with their newborns. The new purpose-built home will have four bedrooms with attached bathrooms, a large training kitchen, office space and a second stage self-contained suite that a mom can graduate into. “Together we will continue to provide comfortable beginnings for vulnerable moms and babies, helping to re-unite and keep families together,“ said Gale Stewart.

In 2020, pandemic restrictions and protocols limited the number of moms that could be accommodated in an aging house, and repairs and maintenance costs increased to the point where the original house was no longer operable. Aunt Leah’s Foundation undertook the rebuilding of the original house. The project was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home program, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s National Housing Co-Investment Fund and the Government of British Columbia’s Community Gaming Grants Capital Projects program, as well as a number of generous private donors. “Despite the challenges of fundraising and executing a project during pandemic times, it was the critical support of our partners, government funders and donors who believed in its importance that made it possible,” said Jacqueline Dupuis, Executive Director, Aunt Leah’s Foundation.

“Every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home,” said The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion. Our government is proud to support the redevelopment of Aunt Leah’s House, a home where mothers can rest, grow and regain their independence in a safe and secure environment. At Aunt Leah’s, mothers will have the opportunity to rebuild their lives and access the critical support services necessary for them to emerge stronger. This is one way our government’s National Housing Strategy is ensuring no one is left behind.”

“Aunt Leah’s House provides a crucial service to those most vulnerable in our society. Its rebuilding ensures that more mothers and children will receive safe housing and services they need,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Municipal Affairs. “By funding important projects like this, the Province is helping support a brighter future for mothers, families and their little ones entering the world.”

About Aunt Leah’s Place
For over 30 years, Aunt Leah’s Place has been helping kids in foster care and young mothers achieve a better future. We do this by providing guidance, supported housing, job training and
coaching on essential life skills. We believe every individual deserves to feel safe, cared for, and have a sense of belonging. Unfortunately, this is not a reality for many teens in the foster care system. When they “age out” of government care at 19, they find themselves completely alone. Aunt Leah’s often provides the only thread of care and continuity for youth whose lives are
marked by abuse, neglect, abandonment and multiple foster home placements. Over the years, we have seen how support at this critical time can help these young people realize their
potential while becoming resilient, independent adults.

About Aunt Leah’s Foundation
In 2013, recognizing the need for more housing options, Aunt Leah’s Place launched a foundation for the purpose of building a social purpose housing portfolio that would provide safe, affordable housing for new mothers and young people leaving foster care. Today the Foundation has a portfolio of four shared-living homes and an 11-unit apartment building, housing 25-30 at-risk youth each year. Most recently the Foundation undertook a project to rebuild the original Aunt Leah’s House.

Aunt Leah’s Christmas Tree Lots Provide Housing and Hope for Young Moms

January 24, 2023

For folks looking to get into the Christmas spirit this year, purchasing a fresh, locally sourced Aunt Leah’s Tree or volunteering at an Aunt Leah’s Tree lot – open in Vancouver November 24th, and in Burnaby and Coquitlam November 25th – is the perfect way to experience some holiday cheer and help support vulnerable foster youth and young moms and their children.

Chelsea was a pregnant 15-year-old in foster care with nowhere to go. That was when Aunt Leah’s Place, a Vancouver charity that provides housing and support for young moms and fosters teens, stepped in.

“I don’t think I could have raised my daughter on my own without that help,” says Chelsea. “Aunt Leah’s has been like a family to me. They taught me how to take care of my baby and myself.”

Without the stable housing and support that Aunt Leah’s House offered, Chelsea would have been at risk of losing her baby to the child welfare system.

“Without a supportive home to go to, these young moms would be homeless and lose their babies to the foster care system,” says Sarah Stewart, Executive Director of Aunt Leah’s. “We are trying to stop this cycle.”

With Aunt Leah’s support Chelsea learned life skills and how to care for her baby. She also went back to school and graduated from South Burnaby High school.

The Aunt Leah’s Tree sales are a major source of revenue for the housing and programs that Aunt Leah’s provides for vulnerable foster youth and young moms and babies. Studies show that 50% of BC foster youth will experience homelessness, and young single moms have experienced even greater levels of housing and food insecurity during the pandemic.

After establishing a career as an aesthetician and successfully caring for her two children, Chelsea found herself homeless and without a job at the beginning of the pandemic. “It was brutal. I was renovicted, and the salon was shut down due to Covid. I was couch-surfing on a friend’s couch with nowhere to go. An Aunt Leah’s participant reached out to me, and I contacted them. They were so helpful.”

Chelsea moved into the Aunt Leah’s Laneway house with her two children. They are now in school, and Chelsea is upgrading her skills at college with hopes of opening her own salon.

Aunt Leah’s has been a lifeline for moms in need, providing housing, food hampers, living essentials and a supportive and compassionate adult to help them navigate these challenging times. In addition to the current housing that Aunt Leah’s provides for young moms and children, Aunt Leah’s House in Burnaby is almost complete with 5 more families ready to move in January 2023. Plans are also underway to build a laneway house on the premises which will provide more housing and activity space, giving Aunt Leah’s new capacity to provide affordable housing to moms from care and their babies.

Proceeds from Aunt Leah’s Christmas Tree Lots will go toward supporting the programs needed to successfully run these housing projects.

Aunt Leah’s is also proud to announce that they have been selected as one of Canada’s Top 10 Impact Charities for 2022 by Charity Intelligence (Ci).

Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund provides $20,000 to Aunt Leah’s Place – Funds will go towards Clinical Counselling Support from Dan’s Legacy Foundation

January 24, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 24, 2022

Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund provides $20,000 to Aunt Leah’s Place

Funds will go towards Clinical Counselling Support from Dan’s Legacy Foundation

NEW WESTMINSTER, BC – Youth in and aging out of foster care will now have improved access to free clinical counselling thanks to a $20,000 Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund grant to Aunt Leah’s Place. The grant will be directed towards expanding the capacity of the counselling program provided by Dan’s Legacy Foundation.

Youth like “Jeremy” who was born into a family with a long history of gang involvement and witnessed horrific violence in his home from the time he was a child. “Jeremy’s” school counsellor referred him to Dan’s Legacy’s counselling program where a therapist helped him learn self-regulation through healthy diet and exercise, which set the foundation to begin trauma counselling. Aunt Leah’s Place then supported “Jeremy” to find housing, which gave him a safe space away from the violence. After a year of trauma counselling “Jeremy” learned how to let go of his rage and focus on building his life. “Jeremy” is now enrolled in university and thrilled at the idea of having so many choices to create his future.

 The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the community’s collective mental health, and for many youth in and from foster care the impact has been especially devastating. Many of these young people, already struggling with mental health issues, are experiencing increased anxiety and depression due to the uncertainty, financial hardship, and isolation created by the pandemic.

“Conditions created by COVID-19 for young people facing mental health challenges necessarily strengthened the partnership between Aunt Leah’s and Dan’s Legacy. By joining forces and with the generous support from the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund, we have been able to respond to the need for mental health support by providing immediate crisis care and counselling for youth in and from foster care,” says Sarah Stewart, Executive Director of Aunt Leah’s Place. “This support has been a lifeline for many of our youth.”

“Working as a team with Aunt Leah’s Place over the years has shown how much the community benefits from our combined efforts,” says Barbara Coates, Dan’s Legacy’s executive director. “We’re grateful to the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund for their continued support of our programs, and look forward to more successful health outcomes for our youth clients.”

“Bell Let’s Talk is pleased to support Aunt Leah’s Place as they work with Dan’s Legacy Foundation to expand mental health counselling services for youth in foster care in the Lower Mainland,” says Mary Deacon, Chair of Bell Let’s Talk. “The Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund provides grants to community-based mental health organizations throughout the country, working to expand access to mental health care for more young people close to home through programs like this.”

Bell Let’s Talk Day is January 26

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell donates 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs for every applicable text, local or long distance call, tweet or TikTok video using #BellLetsTalk, every Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video, and every use of the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat lens. All at no cost to participants beyond what they would normally pay their service provider for online or phone access.

Bell Let’s Talk promotes Canadian mental health with national awareness and anti-stigma campaigns like Bell Let’s Talk Day and significant Bell funding of community care and access, research and workplace leadership initiatives throughout the country. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.

Youth in need of support are encouraged to contact Aunt Leah’s Place at [email protected], or visit auntleahs.org for more information.

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About Aunt Leah’s Place

Aunt Leah’s Place helps prevent children in foster care from becoming homeless and mothers in need from losing custody of their children. To support them on their journey to self-sufficiency, we provide supported housing, job training, and coaching on essential life skills.

About Dan’s Legacy Foundation

Dan’s Legacy provides therapeutic counselling and life-skills intervention programs to youth affected by trauma-based mental health and addictions issues. In the past year, Dan’s Legacy helped over 400 youth stabilize and begin working towards their educational, employment, and recovery goals.

Media Contacts

Aunt Leah’s Place – Lourdes Perez de Lara, [email protected], 604-2187104

Dan’s Legacy Foundation – Barbara Coates, [email protected], 604-329-9186

 

Aunt Leah’s Place receives a $20,000 Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund Grant to expand youth mental health counselling in partnership with Dan’s Legacy Foundation

October 24, 2019

NEW WESTMINSTER, October 24, 2019 – Aunt Leah’s Place is pleased to announce it has received a $20,000 grant from the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund to expand the capacity of its free clinical counselling program operated in partnership with Dan’s Legacy Foundation.

The Link: Mental Health Supports for Youth from Care program provides free counselling services and supports for youth in and from foster care with histories of abuse, neglect and mental health issues. Funding from Bell Let’s Talk will enable the program to expand its counselling hours, offering evening and weekend sessions at Aunt Leah’s Youth Hub Resource Centre.

“The Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund grant allows Aunt Leah’s Place and Dan’s Legacy to continue our partnership and provide innovative mental health supports for youth in and from foster care,” said Sarah Stewart, Executive Director of Aunt Leah’s Place. “We are honoured to work with so many amazing young people each day and to have such a great partnership with Dan’s Legacy. We thank Bell Let’s Talk for supporting youth in and from foster care and helping them build brighter futures.”

“We’re proud of our longtime partnership with Aunt Leah’s Place and thrilled with this outstanding support from Bell Let’s Talk,” said Barbara Coates, Executive Director of Dan’s Legacy. “Working together has helped us expand our reach into the community, ensuring more at-risk youth receive critical counselling and wrap-around supports.”

Youth from foster care are at high risk for homelessness and lifelong mental health and addictions issues. Aunt Leah’s Place and Dan’s Legacy Foundation work together to provide wrap-around services to at-risk youth in the Lower Mainland who are either in foster care or aging out of foster care. For youth in transition, The Link works to provide a continuum of care and planning past age 19, closing the gap in mental health support services for at-risk youth requiring mental health counselling.

“Bell Let’s Talk is pleased to support Aunt Leah’s Place as they work with Dan’s Legacy Foundation to expand mental health counselling services for youth in the Lower Mainland,” said Mary Deacon, Chair of Bell Let’s Talk. “Through the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund, we are helping over 120 organizations across Canada this year, like Aunt Leah’s Place, that are making a difference for people in their communities living with mental health issues.”

The Bell Let’s Talk initiative promotes Canadian mental health with national awareness and anti-stigma campaigns like Bell Let’s Talk Day and significant funding of community care and access, research and workplace leadership initiatives. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.

About Aunt Leah’s Place

Aunt Leah’s Place helps prevent children in foster care from becoming homeless and mothers in need from losing custody of their children. To support them on their journey to self-sufficiency, we provide supported housing, job training, and coaching on essential life skills.

About Dan’s Legacy

Dan’s Legacy provides therapeutic counselling and life-skills intervention programs to youth affected by trauma-based mental health and addictions issues. In the past four years Dan’s Legacy has helped over 300 youth meet their educational, housing and life goals.

For more information, please contact:

Lourdes Perez de Lara

Communication and Development Lead

604-525-1204 x233
[email protected]

IMAGE: From left to right: Tom Littlewood, Dan’s Legacy, Program Director; Sarah Stewart, Executive Director of Aunt Leah’s Place; Barbara Coates, Executive Director of Dan’s Legacy, and Andrea Lyman, Bell Ambassador

Vancouver Charity Combatting Youth Homelessness Selected as One of Canada’s Top 10 Impact Charities for the 2nd Year in a Row

October 24, 2018
Vancouver Charity Combatting Youth Homelessness Selected as One of Canada’s Top 10 Impact Charities for the 2nd Year in a Row

VANCOUVER, BC – Aunt Leah’s Place, a Metro Vancouver charity providing housing, education, job training and support for youth aging out of foster care and young moms and babies, has been selected by Charity Intelligence (Ci), for the 2nd year in a row, as one of Canada’s Top 10 Impact Charities for 2018.

The 2018 Top 10 Impact Charities cover charities providing social services in Canada as well as international programs. Charity Intelligence’s rigorous analysis measures the “difference”, or the impact, charities make. Of the 125 Canadian charities that Charity Intelligence analysed for impact, Aunt Leah’s was evaluated as one of the Top 10 Impact Charities delivering returns of 6 times for every dollar donated.

“Aunt Leah’s Place is honoured to be chosen as a Top 10 Charity by Charity Intelligence. Our vision is to create an environment where all children connected to the foster care system have equal opportunities akin to their parented peers.” Says Executive Director Sara h Stewart. “One of the risks that youth aging out of foster care face is becoming homeless.”

The first youth homelessness Count in Metro Vancouver, conducted by the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association on behalf of Metro Vancouver, found that half of the 681 homeless youth surveyed are or were previously in foster care. “This count confirms what we know. Our young people from foster care have been struggling and continue to struggle once they age out.” Says Stewart.

The homelessness number corresponds with a University of Victoria report, Avoiding the Precipice, which found that almost half of kids in foster care will experience homelessness when they age of care at 19. In contrast, the study found that Aunt Leah’s services and supports helped former foster youth avoid homelessness and maintain market housing. The study showed that an average of 86% of Aunt Leah’s participants were safe, independent and in housing. In 2016, 93% of moms leaving the Aunt Leah’s Threshold Program, a unique program that provides housing and support for homeless moms and their children, secured safe housing and maintained custody of their children.

According to Greg Thomson, Director of Research at Charity Intelligence, “Social impact is primarily about changing lives and Aunt Leah’s is very cost-effectively changing lives in two main ways. First, it breaks the cycle of foster care by supporting young mothers and preventing their babies from going into foster care. And second, it helps bridge the gap for kids who “age-out” of the foster system with housing and finding jobs. Charity Intelligence finds Aunt Leah’s to be a High Impact charity.”

Stewart is hopeful that some of the government initiatives that have recently been introduced for foster kids aging out of care will produce better outcomes for this vulnerable population.

“Exciting things have been happening for youth in and from foster care in BC this past year. The province has provided a tuition waiver for youth from care at all public post-secondary institutions. This has allowed for more young people from foster care to attend university or college.”

Braydon Chapelas, a foster youth advocate and former foster youth himself is appreciative of the tuition assistance and the support that Aunt Leah’s provided him when he was leaving the foster system. Aunt Leah’s Support Link program provided him with essential skills training to live on his own. Aunt Leah’s also helped him by providing housing and other supports which enabled him to finish high school and enroll in university. Braydon is now a fashion marketing student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and works part time at Aunt Leah’s as the Communications and Marketing Assistant. Braydon recently attended the Policy Solutions rally in Victoria advocating for a universal and comprehensive agreements for all youth aging out of care in BC. “Expanding supports for youth who age out of care in BC is crucial to combat youth homelessness and support them to reach their potential.” Says Chapelas.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018, Aunt Leah’s has a long tradition of social entrepreneurship, operating several businesses which both give employment opportunities to youth from care and generate almost 20% of its annual revenue.

Aunt Leah’s Tree Lots, opening November 23rd in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby, New West and Coquitlam are the biggest revenue generators for the organization 100% of profits from the sale of the trees goes to support the housing programs. In addition Aunt Leah’s youth gain valuable job experience working on the lots.

“Our customers love the fact that they can help provide housing for vulnerable youth and young moms and babies by just buying a Christmas tree.” says Angelina Oates, Tree Lot Coordinator. “For a lot of families an Aunt Leah’s Christmas tree is a cherished part of their Christmas tradition.”

Christmas Tree Lots

About Charity Intelligence:

Charity Intelligence researches Canadian charities for donors. Charity Intelligence’s website (www.charityintelligence.ca) reviews and rates over 750 Canadian charities as well as providing in-depth reports on philanthropic sectors like Canada’s environment, cancer, and homelessness.

Aunt Leah’s Selected as One of Canada’s Top 10 Impact Charities

October 24, 2017
Vancouver Charity Combatting Youth Homelessness Selected as One of Canada’s Top 10 Impact Charities

VANCOUVER, BC – Aunt Leah’s Place, a Metro Vancouver charity providing housing and support for youth aging out of foster care and young moms and babies, has been selected as one of Canada’s Top 10 Impact Charities for 2017 by Charity Intelligence (Ci).

Charity Intelligence has picked the Top Ten 10 most effective Canadian charities that combat issues such as hunger, homelessness, health, and improving education. According to Ci’s Director of Research, Greg Thomson, “High impact charities are likely to be the most effective at changing lives. For your dollar, these charities are creating the most positive change we have seen These 10 high-impact charities, as a group, are likely to produce over $600 in value from a $100 gift!”

“What we do at Aunt Leah’s is to stop the cycle of homelessness and foster care by providing housing and a family-like support system for youth who are aging out of foster care and for young moms.” Says Executive Director Sarah Stewart, “Without a supportive home to go to, these moms—many of whom were foster kids themselves– would be homeless and lose their babies to the foster care system.”

It is estimated that half of BC foster youth will experience homelessness. The University of Victoria report, Avoiding the Precipice, found that Aunt Leah’s services and supports helped former foster youth avoid homelessness and maintain market housing. According to the study an average of 86% of Aunt Leah’s participants were safe, independent and in housing. In 2016, 93% of moms leaving the Aunt Leah’s Threshold Program, a unique program that provides housing and support for homeless moms and their children, secured safe housing and maintained custody of their children.

A recent report, OPPORTUNITIES IN TRANSITION: An Economic Analysis of Investing in Youth Aging out of Foster Care in their 20s states “Support for social and community connections should recognize the role of service organizations in assisting youth aging out of care find and maintain adequate housing… An evaluation of Aunt Leah’s Link program found that it successfully helped youth aging out of care work through housing issues.”

The report demonstrates the cost benefit of supporting this vulnerable population. Annual costs of up to $268 million are associated with the adverse experiences many youth aging out of foster care at 19 encounter, while a much lower level of investment – $57 million per year – would be required to improve outcomes and reduce costs.

Aunt Leah’s is looking forward to having even greater impact going forward.

They have recently partnered with BC Housing to acquire ownership of a 10-unit apartment building and a five bedroom home, giving them increased capacity to provide affordable housing to youth from foster care and moms from care and their babies.

Marcia Tait is one of those moms who has benefited from Aunt Leah’s support. Marcia came to the Thresholds program on a cold day in February of 2015. The staff listened to Marcia’s story and assured her that this was the place she needed to be. She moved into Thresholds a few days later.

Today Marcia and her youngest daughter, who she is now reunited with, are living independently in their own apartment and Marcia acts as a Peer Mentor for Threshold’s current and past moms.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018, Aunt Leah’s has a long tradition of social entrepreneurship, operating several businesses which both give employment opportunities to youth from care and generate almost 20% of its annual revenue.

The biggest revenue generator is the Aunt Leah’s Tree Lots which are now open in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby, New West and Coquitlam. One hundred per cent of profits from the sale of the trees go to support the housing programs. In addition Aunt Leah’s youth gain valuable job experience working on the lots.

“Our customers love the fact that they can help provide housing for vulnerable youth and young moms and babies by just buying a Christmas tree.” says Angelina Oates, Tree Lot Coordinator. “For a lot of families an Aunt Leah’s Christmas tree is a cherished part of their Christmas tradition.” Christmas Tree Lots