USJE community investment initiative helps bring stability to at-risk youth

In February 2020, the Miramichi Youth House’s application for USJE Community Safety and Outreach funding was selected to receive $20,000 towards the operation of its shelter and programs.

USJE created the Community Safety and Outreach Initiative in 2019 as part of a three-year strategic plan for the organization. Four great projects from across the country were selected and funded from a host of applications. Our Union believes that union involvement is not limited solely to our workplaces but that we have an important role to play in strengthening the communities we live in as well.

Miramichi Youth House in New Brunswick is the only homeless shelter in the area specifically for youth, filling a crucial need for stability for some of the most at-risk members of society.

The group’s mandate is to provide support to youth aged 10 to 19. This includes overnight shelter beds, low-cost housing and an outreach program. The Youth House has about 30 staff at two main locations.

Lindsey Fanjoy, manager of the Miramichi Youth House, says the funding came at a crucial time.“We suddenly found ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic and donations were harder to come by. Miramichi is a small community, so securing revenue is already a daunting task – and the pandemic made it even tougher. The Union’s contribution allowed us to function well during an especially lean time.”

With the funding, a new staff computer as well as a new resident computer were purchased.And because of all the extra time spent indoors during the mandatory isolation from the outside world, the new computers have been extremely beneficial to residents and staff.

“Libraries were closed, right? Everything was closed. So those new computers provided a big update and outlet for the kids. That was key,” explains Fanjoy. “Overall, this particular funding just brought with it a lot positivity from the staff – and the kids, too. It’s a great feeling when you see that your community has your back during tough times.”

In addition to the new hardware, funds were allocated to several areas that needed a boost. For staff, additional training was provided in Non-violent Crisis Intervention, formal First Aid training, and Mental Health First Aid.

For the youth at the shelter, the benefits were numerous.

“A big thing is when we are transitioning a young adult at the shelter to live on their own in the community. We used some of the funding to make the first big purchase of groceries and toiletries that are needed when moving into a new place, to help alleviate that worry and stressor,” says Fanjoy. “But over and above that, we went on some really fun excursions – like Magic Mountain! – when the pandemic lockdown restrictions eased. And some of the younger kids got meaningful Easter presents or birthday presents for the first time. The look on their faces was just priceless.”

“These are the kinds of experiences that can change the lives of a young person, in a really impactful way,” Fanjoy continues. “And conversely, helping people succeed can be a really rewarding experience for our staff. The employees here at the Youth House are very committed to their job and to the kids. It’s not out of the ordinary for staff to come in on their day off with some refreshments, or just to say hi. Or if it’s a resident’s birthday, they show up whether they are working or not to celebrate; it really is like a family here.”

And that is the essence of USJE’s Community Safety and Outreach Initiative: if we invest in positive outcomes for those who need a little extra help, everyone benefits.

PHOTO – National President Stan Stapleton (right), Debbie Doran, Local President 60001 (second from left), and Iris Duffy, Shop Steward 60001 (left), were pleased to present the Miramichi Youth House Inc. with a cheque for $20,000 as part of the USJE Community Safety & Outreach Initiative.