Saint John homeless youth shelter closer to reality

A shelter for homeless youth in Saint John is one step closer to reality after the Anglican Diocese donated an old church to the non-profit group looking to open a 10-bed facility.
St. James Anglican Church on Broad Street will be torn down to make way for a new shelter for homeless youth in Saint John. (Google Street View)

A shelter for homeless youth in Saint John is one step closer to reality.

The Anglican Diocese has donated the site of the old St. James Anglican Church on Broad Street to the non-profit group Safe Harbour Transitional Youth Services.

The group, which wants to open a 10-bed facility, agreed to take over the south end property after looking at nine other buildings, said co-ordinator Colin McDonald.

The church, which is more than 140 years old and has sat vacant for seven years, isn't in good enough shape to save, he said.

But the location is the best fit for people between the ages of 16 and 24 without a place to stay, he said.

"It's close to services, we have two major high schools, youth are able to get to different services — whether it be groups like the teen resource centre, mental health services, the mental health recovery program is right in the neighbourhood, and those were important to us.

"But it was the feeling of the neighbourhood; we wanted to make sure we'd put our kids somewhere safe."

The group plans to build new, but preserve what it can from the old building, said McDonald.

It's not yet known when construction will begin.

"We desperately wanted to save the building because it's a beautiful building," he said. But engineers and other experts advised against it because to stone structure has eroded from being next to the ocean.

"We are going to have to tear down a good chunk of the building, but we are going to save as much as we can from the building and reuse it and repurpose it," McDonald said.

The shelter will house at-risk youth for up to six months as they transition from street life to a more permanent home.

Case managers will also help youth access mental health and addictions counselling, as well as educational and employment opportunities.