CHBA, ICS help foster the future

By: Andrea Klassen in News February 2, 2015 

It’s so new it doesn’t yet have a name, but organizers from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of the Central Interior (CHBA-CI) and the city’s HomeFree Collective believe a new initiative could be big for the city’s at-risk youth.

Shelly Bonnah, CEO for Interior Community Services, said the program will see kids at risk of homelessness, in particular those aging out of the foster-care system, paired with local tradespeople for employment and mentorship.

“Ending youth homelessness is about more than finding housing for youth, though that’s a big part of it,” Bonnah said.

“The other big part of it is the sustainability part of it — keeping youth in their housing and finding meaningful employment, connections, mentors, all of those things.”

On the homebuilders’ end, CHBA-CI president Matt McCurrach said the program has the benefit of providing more labour — a major demand in the construction industry — and an opportunity for members to give back.

“Our industry is full of people who have been given an opportunity and people who aren’t necessarily the typical office environment type people,” he said.

The organizations have chosen to focus on youth aging out of the foster-care system because research shows they are more likely to become homeless, Bonnah said.

She sees the program filling some gaps the foster-care system can’t.

“It’s about the mentors in their life and having people around them — and a sense of belonging and all of those things that come along with employment,” Bonnah said.

“And all of those are the things that aren’t really talked about, but those are the things that are really missing for people who have grown up in foster care.”

The two organizations are still in the process of pairing up their first youth with a local electrician and hope to involve about 10 kids per year.

McCurrach said the goals of the program will be somewhat flexible.

While the organizations are in discussions with Thompson Rivers University about educations opportunities for those youth who find they love the trade they’re exploring, in some cases the program may be a shorter-term learning experience.

“All we can do is give an opportunity and it’s up to the individual whether they want to run with it and like it,” McCurrach said.

“Who knows — maybe it’s a career, but maybe it’s just a foundation of the real world and work ethic.”

"As a member of the CHBA, for the past 20 years, I have always found the association to be an extremely valuable resource and advocate for the industry."