A new homeless youth shelter that's opening in Winnipeg today is offering at-risk teens a safe place to stay.
Macdonald Youth Services has renovated the century-old Heritage Mansion on 159 Mayfair Ave. into a 24-hour co-ed emergency shelter, at a cost of $2.4 million.
The 7,000-square-foot building, which officially opened on Tuesday, offers a total of eight private bedrooms — four for girls, and four for boys — and is expected to help more than 1,600 teens every year.
"The privacy alone is a big factor," Sandy Staples, a senior youth care practitioner with Macdonald Youth Services, told CBC News on Tuesday.
"Kids come in crisis…. After they speak with staff they want to be, you know, in their own room, with their own thoughts."
Deputy Police Chief Dave Thorne said officers rely on shelters like this as a resource to provide at-risk-youth the support they need.
“How important is it, regardless of your age, to know there is a safe place; a safe harbour in a stormy sea to come and be protected” Thorne said.
He hopes this is the first of many shelters of its kind.
A 2013 report estimated about 30,000 Canadians go homeless every night, and 20 per cent of those using shelters are between the ages of 16 and 25.
Staples said the shelter is currently taking in clients who are between 12 and 17 years old, but the agency hopes to include young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 in the future.
"That's an age that really gets missed," she said.