There will soon be 11 less homeless youth in our community, thanks to Tammy and Gary Vandenheuvel of Preferred Towing.
The couple has worked diligently over the past two years to purchase and renovate the old ABC Daycare Building and turn it into secure housing for transitional youth. There are seven self-contained apartment units in total with capacity for 11 youth. The building operates under their newly created not-for-profit Lambton Supportive Transitional Housing Inc.
“The inside renovations are well on their way and we expect to gain occupancy soon,” explains Tammy. “The first tenants have been selected and our goal is for them to be able to move into their units in July.”
Youth between the ages of 16-24 years old who are homeless or at risk of homelessness will be eligible for the housing. The Vandenheuvels have entered into an agreement with Sarnia-Lambton Rebound who will provide the support services that the youth will need, as well as the initial intake, ensuring the youth meet the criteria. In addition, the youth will participate in a life skills development program with the help of a Rebound housing support worker.
“There is a misconception that Rebound staff will be onsite 24 hours a day. That isn’t the case,” says Tammy. “This is independent living for the youth.” The safety of the youth is paramount and extra security features have been added such as cameras and a video intercom at the locked entrance door.”
This is a passion project for Tammy, who has real-life experience with homelessness. At age 16 she found herself homeless, struggling to find a place to stay with friends or relatives. She eventually moved to London to attend college and earned a degree as a Child Youth Worker. “It’s nearly impossible to focus on school or employment or self-care when you don’t have a secure place to live. We want to ensure our local youth have that secure place so they can focus on being successful.”
Although partially funded by the County of Lambton, the Vandenheuvels were responsible for the up-front money for the purchase of the building and the extensive renovations. “Our community needs to support our youth. It was important that someone come forward to see this through to fruition. There have been many hurdles, but it’s exciting to see how far we’ve come in only two years,” explains Tammy.
“We’re in it because we care. We’re hoping that the youth engage with each other and their neighbours to share resources, build trust and ‘bring community back’ to our neighbourhoods.”
Each unit contains a fully equipped kitchen, living area, bathroom and one or two bedrooms. The apartments are fully furnished and are expected to be move-in ready in July.
“It’s been an exciting journey so far, but it isn’t over yet. The second phase will start when the youth move in,” exclaims Tammy and Gary.
Youth who are interested and want more information, or to be put on a waiting list, should contact Rebound at 519 344 2841.
Tammy and Gary continue to raise money through their non-profit, the Lambton Supportive Transitional Housing Inc. They have held an annual fundraiser around their reality TV show, Heavy Rescue 401. They also sell Heavy Rescue 401 merchandise on their Preferred Towing website with 100% of the proceeds going towards the youth housing project.
The Vandenheuvels are asking the youth in the community to help them name the building.
For more information, to make a donation, or purchase merchandise, you can visit their website http://www.preferredtowing.com or email the office at email@example.com or phone by 519-344-7277.