Manitoba

Homeless shelter a haven for at-risk Winnipeg youth

MacDonald Youth Services is one of the few refuges for at-risk youth in Winnipeg — youth like Tina Fontaine.

Macdonald Youth Services provides safe space for homeless, at-risk youth

MacDonald Youth Services is one of the few refuges for at-risk youth in Winnipeg — youth like Tina Fontaine. 2:14

MacDonald Youth Services is one of the few refuges for at-risk youth in Winnipeg — youth like Tina Fontaine

Before she died, Fontaine was a kid in crisis, and like many at-risk young people in the city, she  briefly found herself inside Macdonald Youth Services' shelter.

Fontaine didn't end up staying there, but many kids do.

Intake program

The first step for kids who show up at Macdonald Youth Services shelter is to have a one-on-one meeting with staff to find out what they need.

"For the most part you've got to be general with the kids," said Darrell Fedoruk, who works at MYS. "You want to just take your time with them. When they are ready to talk to you they'll talk to you."

Fedoruk said demonstrating patience and understanding are key components to letting young people who come through their doors know they are safe.

"We have a service, we offer a variety of things. We can do the best we can for youth. We can't control what happens to them after they leave," said Fedoruk. "We set them up with certain resources, some professional help along the way, and we just hope they do well."

The shelter has eight private bedrooms, 16 surveillance cameras, and staff do bed checks to make sure youth are doing alright.

Building trust

The shelter focuses on building trust and relationships with kids and doesn't force them to stay.

"Everything we do is around relationship building with kids," said Fedoruk. "So if the youth don't trust us, they will not be coming to our facility."

Worker Rui Silva​ said they always worry about those young people they lose contact with.

"A lot of these youth are misunderstood and we want to make sure they always have a chance," said Silva. "When we don't see them for a while, we definitely start to worry and have concerns that they're OK."

The promise of food, a warm bed and security isn't always enough.

"We meet them where they are at in their lives," said Fedoruk. "Whether they don't want to stay here a specific night in the beginning, that's fine. They can come back two or three nights later and say you know what?  I feel better, I feel safe, I feel better to stay here."

In the last year the shelter provided 803 youth with a place to stay, and almost half were children in need of protection.