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The Ark 

Giving street youth stability

492-2577, arkoutreach.com

How to give: Money donations are welcome via pre-authorized payment plans, cheques or through canadahelps.org. Supplies needed on a regular basis are listed on the website.

The Ark outreach has two main parts to its mission. The first is Sunday Supper: Every Sunday at St. Andrew's Church on Robie Street, some 200-250 homeless people are served a meal and have access to a foot clinic, clothing, footwear and the chance to build relationships with people who can help them find housing. About 14 years ago, some regular volunteers at Sunday Supper realized there was not a lot of help available to homeless youth---this eventually led to the second tier of The Ark's outreach, the drop-in centre.

The drop-in is specifically for homeless and travelling at-risk youth. It's a place where people aged 16-24 can have a meal, take a shower, do laundry, get new socks, use the computer and feel at home. As in a home, there are no signs on the door of The Ark's north end building and youth are able to come in, relax and take the time to nurture their talents and interests. There are books to read, instruments to play, a recording studio, art supplies, a silk-screening section and even a pottery wheel and kiln.

The staff who work at the centre---Dorothy Patterson, Emily Hutten and Sheilagh McNab---focus on building relationships. Once youth are comfortable, they'll usually start talking about issues in their lives, such as housing concerns, health problems or addictions. At this point, the staff are able to provide assistance.

Patterson says a lot of what they do is "walking alongside youth to encourage them to follow their dreams." For example, artists come to the Ark and if they want to start a business making t-shirts or record an album, The Ark is where they can do that and find a community of support.

Community is the core of The Ark. That's the way homeless young people know about it. They'll pass a card onto someone they meet or tell them it's the place to go.

Community is also how the Ark survives. "Really, how we've lived is networking within the community," says Patterson. Hutten adds that they run entirely on donations: "Mostly just individuals who've heard about us or who we have conversations with and they feel connected to what's happening here."

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