“For 35 years this house has been dedicated to keeping families together. During this time more than 400 families have called Aunt Leah’s house home, and we are honoured to continue to serve our community in this way,” said Sarah Stewart, Executive Director of Aunt Leah’s Place.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (PRWEB) January 13, 2023
Aunt Leah’s Foundation announced today the completion of its most recent social purpose housing project, the rebuilding of the original Aunt Leah’s House. Operated by Aunt Leah’s Place, since the 1980's, Aunt Leah's House has been a safe haven for young moms (often in foster care themselves) and their babies to ensure families remain together and not separated by the child welfare system.
Through the Thresholds Program, delivered by Aunt Leah’s Place, mothers are provided with a safe and caring home environment to live in, where they learn how to care for their baby with the guidance of staff and family support workers. “For 35 years this house has been dedicated to keeping families together,” said Sarah Stewart, Executive Director of Aunt Leah’s Place. “During this time more than 400 families have called Aunt Leah’s house home, and we are honoured to continue to serve our community in this way.”
A former foster parent herself, Gale Stewart, Founder of Aunt Leah’s, and B.C. Medal of Good Citizenship Award recipient, saw first-hand the importance of “beginnings” as it applied to the bonding of mom & baby and how she could create a home where these young moms could enjoy the comfort of a lovely space, good food and intimate times with their newborns. The new purpose-built home will have four bedrooms with attached bathrooms, a large training kitchen, office space and a second stage self-contained suite that a mom can graduate into.
“Together we will continue to provide comfortable beginnings for vulnerable moms and babies, helping to re-unite and keep families together,” said Gale Stewart.
In 2020, pandemic restrictions and protocols limited the number of moms that could be accommodated in an aging house, and repairs and maintenance costs increased to the point where the original house was no longer operable. Aunt Leah’s Foundation undertook the rebuilding of the original house. The project was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home program, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s National Housing Co-Investment Fund and the Government of British Columbia’s Community Gaming Grants Capital Projects program, as well as a number of generous private donors. “Despite the challenges of fundraising and executing a project during pandemic times, it was the critical support of our partners, government funders and donors who believed in its importance that made it possible,” said Jacqueline Dupuis, Executive Director, Aunt Leah’s Foundation.
“Every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home,” said The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion. "Our government is proud to support the redevelopment of Aunt Leah’s House, a home where mothers can rest, grow and regain their independence in a safe and secure environment. At Aunt Leah’s, mothers will have the opportunity to rebuild their lives and access the critical support services necessary for them to emerge stronger. This is one way our government’s National Housing Strategy is ensuring no one is left behind.”
“Aunt Leah’s House provides a crucial service to those most vulnerable in our society. Its rebuilding ensures that more mothers and children will receive safe housing and services they need,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Municipal Affairs. “By funding important projects like this, the Province is helping support a brighter future for mothers, families and their little ones entering the world.”
About Aunt Leah’s Place
For over 30 years, Aunt Leah’s Place has been helping kids in foster care and young mothers achieve a better future. We do this by providing guidance, supported housing, job training and coaching on essential life skills. We believe every individual deserves to feel safe, cared for, and have a sense of belonging. Unfortunately, this is not a reality for many teens in the foster care system. When they “age out” of government care at 19, they find themselves completely alone. Aunt Leah’s often provides the only thread of care and continuity for youth whose lives are marked by abuse, neglect, abandonment, and multiple foster home placements. Over the years, we have seen how support at this critical time can help these young people realize their potential while becoming resilient, independent adults.
About Aunt Leah’s Foundation
In 2013, recognizing the need for more housing options, Aunt Leah’s Place launched a foundation for the purpose of building a social purpose housing portfolio that would provide safe, affordable housing for new mothers and young people leaving foster care. Today the Foundation has a portfolio of four shared-living homes and an 11-unit apartment building, housing 25-30 at-risk youth each year. Most recently the Foundation undertook a project to rebuild the original Aunt Leah’s House.
Aunt Leah’s Story: https://trellis.org/rebuild-aunt-leahs-house
Gale Stewart - BIO
Gale was born and raised rurally in southern Ontario. She graduated in Radio Television Arts at the Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (now called Toronto Metropolitan University) and moved to B.C. with a young family in 1972.
Housing has always been a very important part of Gale’s life. Finding and providing homes is her passion. They were Foster Parents during the 80’s and they saw, first-hand, the lack of housing, support and tenancy skills offered to teenagers as they aged out of the government foster care system on their 19th birthday. Through that experience and the help of many folks, she has had the privilege of founding two charities: Aunt Leah’s Place that provides support to youth and young moms leaving foster care and a partnering charity, Aunt Leah’s Foundation that buys, builds, and maintains housing for these young people.
Along with enjoying her four adult children and seven grandchildren she is currently helping to set up a Legacy Program for Aunt Leah’s Place, and she is in the early stages of writing the “Aunt Leah’s Story.”
Among many accolades for her important work, Gale is the recipient of the 2021 B.C. Medal of Good Citizenship Award.
Jacqueline Dupuis - BIO
Jacqueline moved to Vancouver in 2012 as the Executive Director of the Vancouver International Film Festival. After 8 years leading one of Vancouver’s largest arts and cultural institutions, Jacqueline followed her heart and shifted her focus to the social impact sector where she became the Executive Director of Aunt Leah’s Foundation.
Jacqueline thrives when she is working on complex problems and she believes in the role of organizations to tell powerful stories, create connection, and affect positive change in the world. Her leadership work focuses on developing growth-oriented business models and strong organizational cultures.
A travel junkie, Jacqueline has traveled the world for both work and pleasure. She has been featured in the media as both an organizational representative and public figure and was honoured to be included in the 2015 YWCA Vancouver Women of Distinction Awards.