A nondescript 1970s-era home in the Uptown area of Saanich holds six simple but tidy bedrooms, gardens, offices and a long dinner table.
For young men struggling with drug or alcohol addictions in Greater Victoria, it’s the home away from home to regain control of their lives.
“There are very few treatment centres for youth (in B.C.). You’ve got to scour the province for a place to take youth and have it not cost a fortune. This program is really needed in the Capital Region. Youth need a place to go,” said Maj. Kathie Chiu, executive director of the Salvation Army’s addictions and rehabilitation centre.
Chiu and other Salvation Army staff gave community groups an inside look at the renewed Beacon of Hope House last Friday, which relocated from Vic West to Saanich earlier this year. Up to six young men between 13 and 18 years old can stay at the house at any given time, typically for a month to three months.
“It is a very home-like atmosphere,” said Sarah Jenkinson, a counsellor at Hope House. “It’s important for youth in detox not to be institutionalized. This (facility) blends in well with the neighbourhood.”
The Vancouver Island Health Authority chips in 25 per cent of the Hope House’s $550,000 annual operating costs, and the Salvation Army funds the remainder for six beds, and 14 counsellors and residential staff members.
Youth can find their way to Hope House through referrals from youth detention, probation officers and counsellors, but Chiu said all clients will leave the house with direction in their lives and a new support network.
“This is small, intimate and is an opportunity for young men to bond and rebuild relationships and get counselling,” she said. “For many of these young men, their family atmosphere is not healthy. This give them the opportunity to live like a family. The staff become like parents, aunts and uncles.”
Turning around the lives of drug addicted youths, who are often alienated from family, friends and school, requires a full-court press of services and planning.
Keltie Manderville, Hope House co-ordinator, said its about giving the youth structure, tempered with flexibility. Morning involves one-on-one and group counselling, and then activities like golf, basketball, swimming or hikes.
Staff members are currently offering the clients Japanese and Spanish lessons, and the house has frequent guests to engage the kids through music, writing, poetry and arts. Staff teach them life skills like cooking or resume building or job hunting.
“We try to draw out their passions, be it through arts, music, drawing or writing. We draw out what they’re passionate about and build on that,” Manderville said.
“Art is huge in the house, although not all youth like art. So it could be bookmaking or bookbinding and we have gardening. It’s about choices and feeling as much apart of a real family as we can.”
Hope House started accepting clients in March after a long hunt for a new facility, when their former location was sold. Online classified ad company UsedVictoria (owned by Black Press, which owns Saanich News) helped outfit the house with donated sports gear, TVs and a barbecue.
Manderville said they’ve taken the opportunity to revamp and expand Hope House programs, to make broader connections with agencies throughout Greater Victoria, and the province.
For one, it’s now connected with the South Island Distance Education school to allow the young men to continue their high school education.
A fundamental part of Hope House is establishing an individual care plan for each youth – goals they want to achieve while in the centre, and what they plan to do when they leave.
“It evolves from wanting to stay off drugs and wanting to build relationships with family members, to wanting to get back to school and back to friends, and wanting their life back,” Manderville said.
But it’s those community connections that are crucial for post-Hope House. Ensuring the youth returns to a safe home environment and to school or work is key to keeping them off the trajectory of using drugs or engaging in crime.
“Reintegrating the youth into the community is a big challenge,” Chiu said. “We can’t do everything. We have to partner with community agencies.”
To contact Hope House, call 250-381-9474 or see victoriaarc.org.