Stopping homelessness before it starts

The Gîte Jeunesse in Beauport and Ste. Foy will continue providing shelter for young boys at risk thanks to a much-needed infusion of federal funds. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development recently made a $600,000 contribution to the organization. In line with the Gîte Jeunesse mandate, the Conservative government’s Homelessness Partnership Initiative is hoping to break the cycle of homelessness.

“We are very, very happy to have the money,” Gîte Jeunesse director Marie-Gil Thibeault said. “The money will go toward paying salaries. We have 13 people working full time at both shelters.” The shelters are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“The boys are often at a breaking point with their families ... sometimes they are already on the street. We want to prevent this from happening,” Thibeault said.

The two shelters temporarily house, feed and provide counselling services to boys aged 12 to 17. The shelter also offers a 24-hour help line to provide advice on problems like drug addiction. The boys’ stay is usually for 30 days. They are then reintegrated into their families with regular follow-ups provided by the shelter.

The boys are also expected to contribute to the operation of the shelter.

“We want to teach them autonomy. We also want them to become more conscientious,” Thibeault said.

Every summer, the boys at the Beauport shelter help keep the bike paths clean in the borough. “Our biggest challenge in the coming year will be to develop a system with the schools [the boys attend]. Often the boys are sent here after a suspension or an expulsion from school, often these kids already have trouble at school. It isn’t doing them any favours to be out of school for 30 days,” Thibeault said.

“We would like to hire a specialist who can help the boys with their school work at the shelter.”

Thibeault stressed that intervention at a young age is best.

“A 16-year-old in secondary two has already lost a lot of hope about his future,” she said.

“We have to prevent kids from dropping out of [high] school. It opens doors to drug addiction, criminality, and sometimes suicide,” Thibeault stressed.

The Gîte Jeunesse will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year.