City Partners with Urban Native Youth Association, Suncor Energy and CMHC to Invest in Aboriginal Youth

October 5, 2016 | Homelessness

The City of Vancouver and the Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA) have taken a significant step in realizing an innovative social service hub for urban aboriginal youth by securing all the land for the new Native Youth Centre. The Centre will be the first of its kind in Canada: a purpose built, Aboriginal youth-led, multipurpose facility offering social, cultural, educational and health related programs, including 220 affordable homes.

“It’s awesome to see UNYA’s Native Youth Centre move forward after nearly 14 years of planning,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Securing a prominent location at the corner of Hastings and Commercial across from the Aboriginal Friendship Centre creates a thriving hub for Vancouver’s urban Aboriginal community and an important cultural heart for the city. I’m pleased to support this project and I hope the BC and federal governments will make significant investments to make the Native Youth Centre a reality.”

“Our Government is committed to developing and implementing smart solutions to housing,” said the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. “Thanks to the combined efforts of all partners, we are able to give a helping hand to Indigenous youth, and in doing so, we are contributing to the social well-being of the entire community.”

The City, through the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA) has funded $500,000 for pre-development costs for the Native Youth Centre, with additional funding from:

  • $9.5 million in-kind donation of land at 1680 E. Hastings from Suncor;
  • $500,000 in seed funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; and
  • City contributions to secure the remaining land, valued at approximately $10 million.

“This partnership is the result of many years of hard work by all of the parties involved,” says Arlene Strom, vice president, Sustainability and Communications, Suncor. “Throughout the years we’ve had the opportunity work alongside many Indigenous communities across Canada, and what we’ve discovered and continue to learn is how deeply we are all connected. It is our hope that this donation will lead to a safe and culturally appropriate space for Indigenous youth in Vancouver to come together.” 

“With Suncor and the City of Vancouver stepping up to tangibly invest in Aboriginal youth, we are one step closer to creating the Native Youth Centre,” says Dena Klashinsky, Executive Director of UNYA. “After nearly 30 years of service to urban Aboriginal youth, we have proven that we have a model that works, which  is delivering great results. This project presents a tremendous opportunity for all levels of government and the private sector to partner with UNYA to address key priorities that will benefit our community, the province of BC, and Canada as a whole. We look forward to other partners committing their support so that urban Aboriginal youth can access culturally-appropriate programs and have opportunities to realize their fullest potential.”

As next steps:

  • VAHA and UNYA are working to finalize the development agreement for the project, and work to develop an RFP for a development partner in early 2017;
  • VAHA has submitted a response to the Aboriginal Housing Expression of Interest through BC Housing, with the hopes of securing additional provincial funding to deepen the affordability of the homes on site at the Native Youth Centre;
  • UNYA  and other partners will work to secure an additional $30 million to fund the Centre, with an additional $5 million to support an Endowment Fund;
  • VAHA and other partners will work to secure approximately $30 million to fund the housing that achieves deeper levels of affordability for the local community; and
  • VAHA will lead a public consultation on the project, in consultation with and support from UNYA and other partners.

UNYA’s proposed Native Youth Centre addresses the housing and wellness needs of Vancouver’s urban Aboriginal population, which has been a key focus of:

  • The City’s Housing and Homelessness Strategy 2012-2021 (2011)
  • The Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability (2012)
  • The Downtown Eastside Plan (2014)
  • The Healthy City Strategy (2014)
  • Being a City of Reconciliation (2014)
  • The Mayor’s Task Force on Mental Health and Addictions​

About UNYA

Created in 1988, UNYA was formed to respond to the needs of urban Aboriginal youth.  Today, approximately 60% of the Aboriginal population lives in urban settings, and 60% of the overall Aboriginal population is under the age of 25.

UNYA works to empower youth by providing diverse opportunities for them to enhance their knowledge, develop their life and employment skills, and positively engage with community.

UNYA is a youth-driven not-for-profit organization and registered charity widely recognized for excellent program development, diverse partnerships, strong youth engagement and fiscal responsibility.  For 28 years, UNYA has been providing programs and services at Hastings Street and Commercial Drive. 

UNYA is one of four multi-service youth hubs in Vancouver supported by the BC Ministry for Children and Family Development, Vancouver Coastal Health, the City of Vancouver, and other funders.  It is the only Aboriginal hub.  Currently, UNYA has over twenty programs and initiatives, 100 staff and 170 volunteers, and 265 community partners. UNYA’s annual operating budget is approximately $4.1 million.