LONDON, ONT. -- A building on Richmond Street that has been vacant for nearly a decade is a home once more - this time for vulnerable youth.

Steve Cordes, CEO of Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.) says 340 Richmond will house six youths from ages 16-21, all of whom will be in separate units.

This project is made possible by the partnership between Y.O.U. and the Children’s Aid Society London and Middlesex (CAS).

“We have identified a need for youth in our community that don’t have housing, don’t have connections to their families or their communities,” says Kristian Wilson, service director at CAS.

“In 2018 the Child and Family Services Act made an amendment so that we can provide protection services to 16 and 17 year olds…that’s how 340 Richmond started.”

The individuals who were chosen to move into the apartments were, for various reasons, unable to join family programs or enter foster care.

“Some are couch surfing house-to-house, some are from shelters, some have had traumatic incidents with their families or conflict in their families,” says Wilson.

The purpose of 340 Richmond is to provide individuals with food, a roof over their head, as well as mental health support from staff at Y.O.U.

The overall goal of this housing project is to transition youth into a permanent household or to teach them how to live independently.

Cordes, who helped moved in some of the individuals, says they show nothing but appreciation for their new homes.

“One fellow was so excited to be able to see his apartment for the first time before moving in, and that really stuck with me,” says Cordes, “This will make a huge impact on them.”

The apartments are right next door to the Cornerstone facility, which provides affordable housing, support programs and employment options.

The Cornerstone also houses a large-scale kitchen where meals are prepared for residents, including the new neighbours next door.

“We’ll give them up to 10 meals in a day if they need,” says Cordes, “so they don’t need to come and see us everyday if they don’t need that kind of contact.”

Five of the units are currently filled and theCAS is in the process of filling the last unit.

Cordes says this is just one step in helping those who are too often overlooked.

“These folks don’t have families…so community members are stepping in and saying, ‘We can act as your family, we are a part of your family we care about you.’"