Thunder Bay

Atikokan Native Friendship Centre hopes new transition home for youth will change futures

A proposed youth transition home in Atikokan, Ont., would be the first of its kind in northern Ontario.

Home proposed for former Atikokan Hotel

The former Atikokan Hotel, in Atikokan, Ont., could become a transition home for youth between the ages of 17 and 29, who would age out of foster care. (

A proposed youth transition home in Atikokan, Ont., would be the first of its kind in northern Ontario.

The Atikokan Native Friendship Centre (ANFC) wants to purchase the former Atikokan Hotel, and convert it into a home for youths between 17 and 29, who would otherwise age out of the foster care system.

The building would provide a place to stay, along with programming, said John Whitesell, a consultant who is working with the ANFC on the project.

"We know what we're going to be dealing with," he said.

"We see the Atikokan Hotel as the hub for the program, but we also want places for youth to go when the program is finished for them, and they've essentially gained a level of self-sufficiency so they can go into the next level of their growth, and determining how they can live the rest of their lives."

Whitesell said the next logical step is to get into affordable housing, to help those involved in the program stay on their feet. 

"Their lives can be much fuller than the trajectory they were on before they got into this transition home."

He said while the target age starts at 17, there are some people that may need assistance starting at the age of 14 and 15. If they received intervention at that age, Whitesell said, they may have better outcomes in the future as well.

Stability is the primary goal of the facility, he said, noting the building would also have physicians coming through on a regular basis.

The goal is to partner with the local school board, he said, noting they would like to provide courses in ecotourism, a culinary school, and a "menu" of options for youths to discover what career may be best for them.

"Nobody has done it at this level."

"We're at a point where the program is going to be finished before the actual property," Whitesell said, noting the program design has already started. Work on the former hotel could start by the fall.

"Frankly, the crisis is so intense, that we want to get started and help the youth who need it the most right now, and help them get on with their lives."

Whitesell said he is reflecting on hearing from one young person, who said they were the first person in their family in four generations to raise their own children.

He said that story shows him why this new place for youth is needed.

"The youth do really know what they need. And, they're anxious to find resources that will help them to get on with their lives. There's such a high degree of frustration, and frankly, pain."


Jeff Walters

Former CBC reporter

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff worked in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario.