The Street Ties Youth Outreach program and the Red Deer Native Friendship Society are both on the search for new locations, after a blaze engulfed the building where they were located at 4712 51st Ave. in Red Deer, early Thursday morning.
Fire inspector Al Robichaud of Red Deer Emergency Services said the cause of the fire is undetermined. He said it appears to have started on the second floor of the building on the exterior patio, but it’s not suspicious and appears to be accidental. He estimated the loss to be $350,000 due to extensive smoke, water and fire damage.
Sandy Proseilo, program manager for Street Ties Youth Outreach, said it’s a daunting task to find a new affordable location as a non-profit society.
Street Ties Youth Outreach is a Parkland Youth Homes program for high risk and homeless youth aged 12 to 21. Until the fire, the program offered 15 to 30 young people a day a place where they could hang out, do laundry, have a shower, use a locker or a computer.
The fire destroyed couches, a washer and dryer and other items in the building, but most heartbreaking for the outreach workers was the loss of artwork the young people had done to decorate the space.
“We’re really looking for someone with a big heart,” Proseilo said. “We’re not a popular cause, though. We’ve got stigma attached to our kids, which is really unfortunate. It’s a little more challenging for us, but we’re really resilient and we’ll pick up and start fresh.”
Proseilo said they need to find somewhere central in the city because the young people they work with don’t have money for bus fare to get to a location outside the downtown core. Until they find a location, outreach program staff have been making contact with the young people on the street to see how they’re doing.
The Red Deer Native Friendship Society will move to the Red Deer Aboriginal Employment Services training room at Suite 105, 4711 51st Ave, for the next few weeks. Sheralle Graystone, director of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society, said they hope to have a new permanent location in a couple of weeks.
A fundraiser drum-athon was set for Friday night at Rotary Recreation Park at Heritage Square, with proceeds raised to help with the fire and replace things that have been lost.
Graystone said the society only has $27,000 in insurance and that has to pay for not only items lost, but also the cleanup. The native friendship society lost the pool table, foosball table, couches, a television and arts and crafts for the Spirit Seekers youth program and all of the toys for the Little Paws program for parents and youth between birth to age five. Red Deer Aboriginal Employment Services will be taking phone calls for donations of money or other items for the friendship society at 403-358-7734. The society should have a phone line up and running early next week.
Graystone said it has been wonderful how the community has come together and been helping out. “The community is fabulous,” she said.
Dorothy Sparks, one of the tenants in the building whose apartment was destroyed, has been left without a home.
Gerry Dueckman, with the Canadian Red Cross, said they have helped Sparks with food, shelter and clothing for the first 72 hours. The other tenants have not contacted the Canadian Red Cross, but Dueckman said the organization would help them as well if they needed some aid.
“In the first few hours after a personal disaster like this, it can be devastating. You get lost you don’t know what to do,” he said. “We try to take care of the necessities.”
Anyone wishing to donate items to Sparks can contact Kimberley Wilson at Berachah Place at 403-877-8055 or Red Deer Aboriginal Employment Services at 403-358-7734.