'Really bad shape': Old Strathcona Youth Society building faces eviction after building found unfit for use

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The Old Strathcona Youth Society is facing eviction after the city deemed its building would need “extensive work” to be fit for use.

The unique building splashed with colourful art and decked out in painted bright green lily pads at 103 Street and 83 Avenue will house the organization until March 31. In a recent announcement on the society’s website, it said the organization is being evicted from its location after being evaluated by the city.

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“We are working collaboratively with the city to find a new location. However, currently there are no city leasing options available in the Strathcona area,” saaid a statement on the website.

“Throughout this process, we have been in close communication with our funders and stakeholders and remain confident in our ability to continue providing services to our youth, albeit with some changes.”

The 25-year-old organization began in 1997 and has grown into a resource centre for unhoused and vulnerable youths to access information and resources for their specific needs.

Ian Pidgeon, executive director at the society, said they received the official notice on Dec. 14 and, while the city is exploring alternative building options, he is unsure if a building will be available by the March 31 deadline and has been encouraged to look at other leasing options.

The current building is situated right next to Youth Empowerment and Social Services, the only organization in Edmonton that provides shelter beds for youths. Pidgeon said the location provides unhoused youths with a place to go during the day and makes it easy for them to find a bed at the shelter. Disrupting the society’s services might have consequences to the development of youths.

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“This really makes it worse. It’s the exact opposite of how you would want to provide services. Their day to day existence is essentially an ongoing crisis response. When you’re in that kind of place the most important thing is, is consistency and to be able to have a consistent community. A massive part of what OSYS provides is a safe place,” said Pidgeon.

In a statement to Postmedia, the City of Edmonton said it has been monitoring a structural issue at the 100-year-old building and “recently learned” the issue has gotten worse. It said the building’s foundation is in “really bad shape” and the space cannot continue to be leased.

“Our primary concern is the safety of our tenants and the Edmontonians who rely on the Old Strathcona Youth Society for services. We’re working to relocate the co-op in the next few months before the structural issues reach a point where they can’t use the building safely,” said the city’s statement.

“We know how important the Old Strathcona Youth Society’s drop-in services are for young Edmontonians who are struggling and are doing everything we can to help them to find another space. We are working to see if other city-owned space is available that will meet their needs, and we are reaching out to community partners as well.”

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Pidgeon said if a new location is not secured by the end of March, their team will move to an outreach model to provide access to unhoused youths in Edmonton.

Pidgeon said staff have a plan, but the real issue is securing a building.

“We have a plan. I have staff. I have funding for staff. We need a building. We need community support,” Pidgeon said.

The organization is funded through the City of Edmonton’s Family Community and Support Services program, other municipal, provincial and federal grants along with fundraisers and donations.

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