Construction crews are hard at work on a downtown office space that will be the new home of the Foundry Victoria, which provides much-needed health, mental health and addiction services for youth.
“I am so incredibly excited!” Foundry Victoria communications and operations coordinator Mikaela Haeusser says. “We have been needing this for such a long time. It’s a constant cry from staff and youth that we just need more space.”
The new space on Yates Street is almost double the size of the current Douglas Street location, which means they can help more young people aged 12 to 24.
“This is going to mean a lot for the youth of Victoria,” says Foundry Victoria executive director Ricki Justice. “I think as people know, there’s a lot of issues with substance use and mental health right now, youth are struggling, so to be able to expand our services and see that many more youth, it’s just a game changer for us.”
In the last year alone, Foundry Victoria had 450 new youth access services. That’s in addition to the 2,500 youth and their families already being helped.
“We see kids coming in with a level of self-awareness that I honestly really admire because they’re able to say, “I think I need help,” Foundry Victoria youth worker Samantha Hoehne tells CHEK News.
Many young people are still struggling as a result of the social isolation and uncertainty they experienced during the COVID pandemic.
“It’s just a gap of two years where youth didn’t get to develop in the way they should have, so that isolation has definitely led to youth seeking out not very positive outlets for the pain they’re experiencing,” Ricki says.
And sadly, losing clients is a devastating reality for youth workers.
“It’s very difficult to see youth that you can recognize the promise, and recognize the beauty that they can have on their future, and be robbed of it,” an emotional Samantha says. “And I think that there are so many ways that we can prevent it.”
This new, larger location — made possible by donations — opens in September.
“We’re still raising a little bit more if anybody’s listening and we are accepting donations to finish up the project,” Ricki says. “But really, the community did rally together to make this a reality in a very short period of time.”
And staff are hopeful it will help make a difference in the lives of more young people.
“Being able to come to work in a place where I don’t feel helpless, where I feel like I am making a difference, where I’m not just turning a blind eye, it helps me get out of bed in the morning,” Mikaela says.
“One thing I was told when I was a teenager and I was thinking about getting into youth work was often people will do it because they have somebody, or because they have nobody, and I like to think that maybe I can be somebody’s somebody,” Samantha adds.