As the committee investigated the needs of the community, one in particular touched the hearts of those involved, and created a burning passion to make a difference: the high number of disadvantaged and vulnerable youth in our immediate area, aged 16-24, many of whom are homeless and “couch surfing”. The call was heard to take on this challenge and a group under the heading of Building Bridges was formed. Due to the scope and size of this need and the passion the members of the committee developed to address it, other churches in the area agreed to participate in this endeavour. A faith-based board of directors was formed comprising three representatives from Meadow Brook Church and three more from local churches. This group is supported by a Steering Committee, which is comprised of individuals from a local high school, Leamington District Memorial Hospital, the Municipality of Leamington, local churches, and other non-profit agencies.
Community Connections has been busy bringing the following vision to reality: the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church site was purchased in January of 2017 and the two-acre property, which houses the former church building, will undergo a major transformation in three phases. Below is a breakdown of the three-phase plan, which will commence in the near future.
The Bridge is now open as of February 2018, what exciting news. This new facility is located at 310 Sherk St. in Leamington, which will initially house a youth resource centre. This centre has a recreation area (computers, games, leisure), a kitchen (with prepared food), showers, laundry facilities, homework area and a Chapel. The centre also has offices to house Access, a partner not-for-profit group, that will provide many of the services needed by the youth – housing, budgeting, work placement, medical care direction as examples. The goal of this centre is that youth with needs can find a place to, first, feel safe, loved, and respected.
Second, to provide individual direction and navigation to a more meaningful life with hope for the future. In addition to the Access staff housed there, there will be a Director of Operations, plus two additional staff at the outset. The dream is it will be a “hub” of activity with positive interactions, both professionally and socially.
Future phases of the Sherk St. location include the following:
1) Transitional dormitory style housing for homeless youth for up to a year as they begin their transition to a more stable environment It is anticipated this stage will be completed within one to two years as funding comes in through grants and fundraising.
2) More permanent, affordable apartments to assist in continuing their journey to a more fruitful life. This phase of the plan is more long term, with completion anticipated within three years
The Community Connections team appreciates all the prayers and support thus far and looks forward to working with members of our church to bring the three phases of the vision into fruition. If you have any questions, or would like to get involved, you can contact one of the following representatives from Meadow Brook Church (click to email).
Please check the Building Bridges website for more resources and information: www.thebridgeyouth.ca