About 40 people, including Anglicans, joined Saint John Harbour MLA and cabinet minister Ed Doherty at Safe Harbour House Nov. 23 to celebrate its future.
Doherty made the official announcement that the Province of New Brunswick will commit $225,000 a year to help operate Safe Harbour House, thus ensuring a future for the centre for homeless and at-risk youth.
Partners For Youth Inc., which will operate the facility, will have to raise another $100,000 a year. The 10-bed facility will reopen March 1.
John Sharpe, CEO of Partners For Youth Inc. hosted the event, which saw at least two MLAs, one Saint John city councillor, several Department of Social Development staff, Bishop David Edwards, several Anglican priests and other supporters present.
“Last January the community, youth at risk and indeed many people across the province were heartbroken at the news that Safe Harbour had to close its doors,” said Mr. Sharpe.
The house opened in March 2015, but closed almost a year ago due to financial pressures, including a lien on the building by the construction company.
What the facility needed was a promise of long-term financial help from the province, and a large chunk of money to pay the lien.
“In order to secure the long-term viability of the program, we really needed a partner who would freely give over a half-million dollars with no strings attached to eliminate the debt,” said Mr. Sharpe.
“Further, we then felt it was better for whoever that donor was to own the building and then lease it to us for a tidy sum of $1 per year – quite a deal for the right investor!”
That investor turned out to be the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton, which has had a vested interest in the property because it is the site of the former St. James Anglican Church.
“For a decade the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton has been linked to this project and for hundreds of years it’s been linked to this site. So it should really be no surprise that they came forward to help solve this crisis.”
An unexpected bequest of $50,000 a year from the estate of George Bartlett, uncle of Dorothy Wilkes, who herself bequeathed $5.5 million to the diocese last year, led to the decision to pay the lien.
His estate paid an annual income to Dorothy, his only living heir, but when she died in 2015, his will stipulated that money would be given annually to two worthy charities – a cathedral in Hawaii, where he lived, and the Anglican diocese of Fredericton, where he was from.
It’s a great day to be here,” said Edwards. “As a community of Christians, extending the Kingdom of God is important to us. That includes things like justice. This is a justice issue.”
He told the story of his time as rector at Stone church a few blocks away, and the day two young men sitting in the church courtyard asked him where they could sleep that night. He’d already talked to the Salvation Army that morning and knew their facility was full.
So the answer was, there was no place for these young men to go and be cared for. It was a conversation that remained on his mind and in his heart all these years later.
“On behalf of the Government of New Brunswick, thank you, Bishop Edwards,” said Doherty. “Thank you for taking care of Safe Harbour and for taking care of so many people in our community.”
Kit Hickey, a long-time member of the Safe Harbour board of directors, thanked the diocese and Partners For Youth Inc. for the work that led to the day’s announcement.
“In the community of Saint John, the outpouring of support told us our commitment to Safe Harbour could not waiver,” she said.
Susan King, a social worker with Partners For Youth Inc. will be the director of Safe Harbour House. She has more than a decade of experience working with homeless and at-risk adults.
“I will be on-site every day and I’m excited to do so,” she said, adding the promotion of lifeskills, education and employment will be major themes at the house.
Partners For Youth Inc. has a summer camp near Canterbury, and King is hopeful it can be used for house residents on occasion.
“Anything to normalize life for kids,” she said. “Anything we can do.”
Sharpe announced it has more than $107,000 in promised funding from several sources over the next few years. Doherty announced the Sisters of Charity had committed to a donation of $5,000.
Not only does the facility have a new and improved future, but it also has a new name and logo. The facility will be known as Safe Harbour House.
“If you entered through the front door, you may have noticed the reimagined logo,” said Sharpe, referring to the sign outside. “Safe Harbour House is the eastern point on the compass and for good reason. East is where the sun rises and it is the source of light and inspiration.
“East tells us that’s it’s time to get up, shake off our inertia and begin our day. The meaning of looking east was often associated with new beginnings, new growth and looking to the future – all elements we will strive to achieve right here.”
Editor’s Note: The Sisters of Charity committed to a donation of $5,000, not $5,000 a year as originally reported.