The inspiration for establishing the Threshold Housing Society came from a group of concerned Anglican parishioners of Christ Church Cathedral. This group was appalled at the large number of people living on the streets. Under the leadership of Rick Sandberg, an Anglican Street Chaplin, the parishioners wanted to address the needs of this neglected population. Interacting regularly with people living on the street, it became apparent to Rick that the lack of affordable housing was the issue in keeping many people homeless. In order to take a pragmatic but ordered approach to assist this population, the Threshold Housing Society was incorporated as a charitable society under the BC Societies Act in March 1990.
The original purpose of this new Society was to provide housing to adults and families at risk of homelessness and to acquire properties for that purpose. This purpose evolved very naturally in response to the evident need for adequate youth housing in the region. Consequently, Mitchell House was opened in June 1992 for young men at risk of homelessness. In 1997, with the help of Holly Hill Holdings, Holly House was added to our program, serving young women at risk of homelessness. It was also in 1997 that the Society received its charitable status with the Canadian Revenue Agency.
Both Mitchell House and Holly House employ a “semi-independent housing model” for youth— between 16 and 21 years of age—needing daily mentoring. House mentors live with the youth. The average stay is anywhere from six to eighteen months. Emphasis is put on stabilizing at-risk youth through safe, secure housing and working with other agencies to provide youth with necessary services that included mental health assistance and finding sustainable work.
(Below: Original Mitchell House on Trutch Street)
During this period the Society struggled to maintain both houses while paying staff and maintenance costs. In 2004, the Society requested help from the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development. Currently, this Ministry provides about 25% of our operating costs with BC Housing providing property management support. Threshold has assisted approximately 350 youth since its inception.
Unfortunately, since 2004, the demand for long-term youth transitional housing has only increased with no signs of this demand abating.
In 2012, based on models elsewhere in Canada, the Society initiated the dynamic Safe Housing for Youth program (SHY) program. The SHY program is a “supported independent living” housing model. It is aimed at using existing housing stock in the community by connecting community landlords and at-risk youth in need of housing. Happily, subsidized housing providers heeded the call and quickly provided several units. The SHY Program is designed for youth 16 – 24 years of age who need minimal supervision, have a plan to move into the future, but need safe, affordable and stable housing to actualize their plans. The program provides support and supervision of the youth; it aims to build positive rental experience for the youth and the landlord. This support includes also bi-monthly life skills workshops, ready-to-rent training, and community resource access and education. Currently, Threshold supplies the largest number of long-term transitional housing units for youth in the Capital Regional District.
Coincidental with the beginning of the SHY program, the Society initiated a unique life-skills program called “self-worthshops”, whose particular aim it is to increase self-esteem among youth in order to make them better advocates for themselves, in terms of self-care as an essential tool for achieving self-reliance and independence.