Brampton motel a new safe haven for Peel region's homeless youth

Shelter space in the motel offers 38 spots, thanks to a two-year lease by Peel region council.

Shelter space in motel offers 38 spots, thanks to a two-year lease by Peel region council

The 7&7 Motel near Queen Street East and Goreway Drive in Brampton is now home to a shelter for homeless youth. (CBC News)

Doorways. Stairwells. Friends' couches. Unlocked cars.

They're all places where Peel region's often-hidden population of homeless youth find shelter.

But now, there's another option, says Neil Rogers, program manager for the Brampton Queen Street Youth Shelter.

Opened on Friday, the shelter near Queen Street East and Goreway Drive is actually the 7&7 Motel, thanks to a two-year lease by Peel region council. 

It's the first youth shelter space in Brampton — and only the second in Peel region, alongside a shelter in Mississauga.

Shelter has space for 38 homeless youth

Rogers says the 38-spot motel space is an "emergency shelter" for youth in the area.

"They can stay until we find appropriate housing for them, whether that be an apartment on their own, a relative, or a treatment program," he says.

"We're not going to put homeless youth back on the streets."

Community groups say it's not clear how many youth are actually homeless in Peel.

More than 160,000 youth live in the region, according to the United Way of Peel Region, but until Friday there was only the single Mississauga shelter serving the area.

Neil Rogers, program manager for the Brampton Queen Street Youth Shelter, says 20 youth have moved in since the shelter opened on Friday. (CBC News)

"More than half the youth who turn to the shelter have been abused and more than 90 per cent come from broken homes," reads a 2010 fact sheet from the United Way.

Since opening its doors just two days ago, the new Brampton shelter space is already more than half full, with 20 youth finding their way in thanks to word of mouth, or by moving into the space from adult shelters.

Rogers says youth don't always feel comfortable in the adult spaces, and want to be around their peer group.

The new shelter space will serve three meals a day, and includes a mobile dentist — who will use a vacant room — and doctor once a week.

Motel an 'interim' solution

Peel region is leasing the motel for $500,000 a year, with the province's homeless prevention initiative covering $1.4 million for the costs of staff and services.

"We are definitely thrilled that we have a youth shelter here in Brampton now," says Leslie Moreau, acting manager with community access, human services for Peel region.

But, she adds, the motel space is an "interim" solution until they can find a better location.

With files from Adrian Cheung