By Steve Pawlett
Special to Ontario Construction News
After touring the aging emergency shelter for at-risk youth in Barrie, the Simcoe County Home Builders’ Association (SCHBA) has stepped up to replace Youth Haven with a new purpose-built facility.
“A couple of board members and I went for a site visit to see what we were looking at,” SCHBA executive officer Sandy Tuckey said. “The moment we walked in, it became evident that the home needed more than a few cosmetic repairs.”
“We went in with an open mind thinking, ok, what can we do to help this organization and to help our local youth? We weren’t in there for more than five minutes when we realized we need to do more than just cosmetic repairs. We brought it back to our board of directors and put in a bigger ask.”
SCHBA had a couple of their structural engineer members do a walk-through. They confirmed that, structurally, the home needed more than cosmetic work.
“We put together a plan, presented it to the board, and proposed a complete teardown and rebuild on the property,” says Tuckey.
“We got buy-in from the board immediately. Our membership unanimously agreed that our community needs this. So, alongside Alair Homes and AJD Design Group, we put together some architectural designs for presentation to the Youth Haven Team to get their input. We discussed building them a purpose-built home that would meet the needs of the youth in Simcoe County.
The aging emergency shelter on Wellington Street near downtown Barrie will be torn down next year and rebuilt with a new and more structurally sound facility.
Youth Haven Executive Director Lucy Gowers approached the SCHBA and invited them to tour the shelter. When they did, they immediately recognized that the need was much more significant than cosmetic repairs.
“I am overwhelmed by their generosity and kindness,” said Gowers.
“We can’t be happier to have such an amazing organization like the Simcoe County Homebuilders Association (SCHBA) partner with us to do this amazing rebuild. I haven’t stopped smiling since the whole adventure was formulated,” Gowers said. “It is simply amazing, and it all started because there was a need for us to approach our community partners to see if there was any opportunity to get someone to come in and do what I thought were cosmetic repairs.”
A capital fund campaign has been launched to help cover the hard costs of the build.
Gowers said she and the Youth Haven staff and volunteers would actively pursue sponsors to help build the facility. The capital campaign request is between $600,000 and $1 million.
There are more than 600 youth in the region who rely on the support that Youth Haven provides, says Gowers.
“Our association is very excited to be part of this project. We think the timing couldn’t be better. As a community, to come together for something like this is super exciting,” said Mark Mulder, one of the SCHBA chairs.
“We are looking at tearing the facility down in August 2023, rebuilding and having it ready for occupancy for Thanksgiving Weekend,” said Mulder.
This power-build approach requires a lot of behind-the-scenes coordination, boots on the ground and a real team effort.
“Coming through Covid, we think this is something the county needs to help reunite the community. By limiting the build time, we can limit the time the youth cannot use the facility,” Mulder said.
Currently, there are 22 youth staying at Youth Haven. The new purpose-built facility will be able to house up to 32 youth.
“By the time we tear it down, prepare the land and complete the build, it will be a 2-month project. Within our association and Simcoe County, we have a great supportive community. I know that we will be able to come together to do this at a reasonable cost and get our at-risk youth back in there as soon as possible,” says Mulder.
SCHBA president Sue Cerelli said the board’s decision to help Youth Haven was “immediate” and members are thrilled to be involved in the project.
“I was unaware of the deplorable conditions of the home. It’s heartbreaking in simple terms. No one should have to live or work in those conditions.
“We also hope to get involvement from the entire community to back us. We have several members of our association who have jumped in to say what can we do; how can we help.”