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13 years in the making: Sunrise House breaks ground on expanded youth emergency shelter

A project that has been 13 years in the making took another major step today, as Sunrise House broke ground on the area that will be the future home of its expanded youth shelter.

More than 50 people attended the ceremony, including Grande Prairie – Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin, Grande Prairie Mayor Jackie Clayton, County Reeve Leanne Beaupre, and MD of Greenview Reeve Tyler Olsen. Tenille Townes wasn’t able to be there but sent her best wishes.

Executive Director Tanya Wald says she’s absolutely thrilled to see this day finally become a reality.

“We’ve got here today because of the drive and the passion that has come from our staff and our board. The staff does so much great work with the youth and they save lives. When we first started talking about it, it was basically a pipe dream. To be here today and be able to share that dream with everyone is amazing.”

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Assistant Executive Director Charity Neilson began working with Sunrise House as a frontline staff member in 2011. In her view, the new building is going to make a huge difference.

“We’ve been working with youth in the area for a long time and it’s our responsibility to grow with the times. We’ve adapted as much as we can in our building with our current team. Now we’re ready to take the next step and improve our programming and take care of the youth in need in our community,” she says.

As the project moves forward, youth are also eagerly anticipating the new building.

“They probably don’t see the current limitations of the old building as much as the staff. We’re doing the best we can in our current shelter. They’re excited to have more space, potential space for music, more art opportunities, and lots of exciting projects,” says Neilson. “It’ll really benefit the youth that we see, absolutely.”

While the facility is located in Grande Prairie, Neilson points out that youth come from all over in need of services.

“We serve everybody north of Edmonton up to Fort McMurray. We’ve had youth come from as far as the Northwest Territories. We have a huge undertaking serving the youth in the north region,” she adds.

A presentation was made at city council on Monday by Community Advisory Board on Housing and Homelessness Co-Chair Len Auger, citing more youth experiencing homelessness. Wald says that the Grande Prairie community is always there if anyone needs help.

“I think we have a lot of love in our community and a lot of people who do want to help. Education and awareness are so important about what child and youth homelessness are and where it comes from. We need to try and catch these problems quickly. Exploitation and trafficking are real. We’ve dealt firsthand with situations like that,” she adds.

The facility is estimated to cost about $5.5 million. Major donors include the City of Grande Prairie, County of Grande Prairie, MD of Greenview, Government of Alberta, John and Jodie Neudorf, and the Peter Teichroeb Family.

“We wouldn’t be here without the amazing support of the community. Every dollar counts.”

The organization still needs to raise $1.6 million for capital costs. Construction is estimated to be finished in about 12 to 14 months.

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