The Art of Giving
“A house is made with walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
What is Lale House?
Lale House is an important program that provides affordable communal housing for young adults 19 to 28 who have aged out of foster care, and are currently homeless or at risk of being without a home. Finding safe and budget-sensitive accommodations in the Lower Mainland is exceptionally challenging anytime of the year, but is even more critical at a time like this, when there is a pandemic that is creating a lot of anxiety and a much more uncertain economic future for these young adults.
Lale House is more than just giving a place to live and take shelter. It’s the realized dream of two local philanthropists to provide housing for homeless youth. (They choose to be mentioned as LD and PD). LD explained, the couple having two children of their own, they wish for all young people to have environments of safety, caring and support to grow up in, just as their own kids had. Over the years, LD had read and heard about Aunt Leah’s work which she found very meaningful and wanted to contribute to it. She had the idea that she could own a principal property and offer the use of it to a charity such as Aunt Leah’s. LD elaborated, “I had some money in the bank but having it just sit there did not contribute to my sense of happiness. I believe that money is some kind of energy and I would like that energy to be in service of something meaningful. Ideally the energy would support the well-being of others. I think that’s it: I wanted the money, instead of sitting idly in the bank, to serve by actively contributing to somebody’s well-being.”
How did you partner with Aunt Leah’s Place to find Lale House?
LD was motivated by a sense of equality, saying, “In a society that I would call wealthy compared to the rest of the world, to see people who don’t have homes, I find that really, really heartbreaking.” She and her husband set out to address this dilemma because of a feeling of societal responsibility. “To be quite honest, I feel it’s our social duty. We have a comfortable home, and why shouldn’t some less fortunate young people have access to decent accommodations as well.” For her, the social contract is obvious. “As a human, I believe we have a responsibility to other humans as well. Making a house available to some young people who don’t have housing, to help them become independent and support them in their growth, really makes me happy.” LD expressed her gratitude to Aunt Leah’s for providing her and her husband with the opportunity to make their idea a reality, describing how they worked with Executive Director Sarah Stewart, who was incredibly supportive in guiding the process from recommending what kind of home would be best, to attending open houses, providing feedback, establishing an agreement and then finally finding a mutually acceptable and suitable home. “She made the whole process very easy. Giving has proven to be a win-win situation as Aunt Leah’s has also taken away all our concerns about having to look after and manage a house. We provided the house and Aunt Leah’s looks after all the rest, such as insurance, taxes, maintenance, etc.”
In April 2019, the right house was found to provide a home for five young adults in search of independence.
What can Lale House offer participants?
Those who have been formerly youth in care, often find it more challenging to go immediately into a fully self-sufficient life. Like the other programs at Aunt Leah’s Place, Lale House follows a family model, where young adult individuals who may not always be ready to be out on their own can get support in a safe and comfortable environment. The setting is intended to be used as a transition platform where participants can obtain the skills or training they need to become fully independent. Aware that participants needed varying levels of support, Lale House was designed accordingly. The home is a single-detached, newly renovated, home with five bedrooms in New Westminster. It’s fully furnished and located for easy access to transit. As an extension to Lale House, when participants are ready to live independently, they can move to one of two private supported suites that have been modelled after Aunt Leah’s Support Link suites. Each suite has a landlord living upstairs and Aunt Leah’s staff do periodic check-ins to ensure a smooth transition.
For LD her dreams for the participants are simple, “My hope would be that these young people would be able to get an education, find a job and eventually become self-reliant. This, I hope, will give them a better chance for a better, happier, independent life.”
“My hopes would be that they find some education, find a job, and find a life that will be satisfactory to them, that it’s going to be a good life. That they can become independent.”
At Lale House, participants work one-on-one with a care worker and get directed to the programs that are the most appropriate for their needs and aspirations. Such programs include life skills, mental health counselling, as well as education and employment support. They also receive bus tickets, passes to the gym, and there are recreational activities planned for everyone to participate.
For LD & PD it boils down to this: “We were very happy when Sarah informed us that one person already left the house because he had graduated and was now ready to live on his own. News like this give us way more satisfaction than a bank-statement showing our assets ever could.”
However, parenting is difficult at the best of times, and all the more as the coronavirus pandemic leads to shutdowns and all Canadians are asked to practise social distancing. Many young people who might otherwise be out with friends, at school, or playing sports now find themselves having to isolate at home. Particularly difficult is the fact that some do not see the novel coronavirus as a threat to their own health and well- being and find it difficult to follow the rules.
The young people living at the house are no different and Aunt Leah’s staff is having to adjust, like every other parent, to ensure that their mental and physical well-being are not compromised. This also means being creative to meet them where they are and relaxing the expectations on educational and job training goals.
And while the plans to go to an escape room, go-karting, or wall climbing with the housemates will have to wait, the good news for this bunch, is that thanks to the generosity of LD &PD who have provided the house and to all donors who support our programs, these young adults will have continuous support until the world is at a better place and they are ready to pursue their dreams and goals on their own.
Photo: Tania Rowland, Program Coordinator outside of Lale House
Special thanks to storyteller and writer, Tami Gabay for volunteering her time and talent to write this story.