Huron House Boys’ Home defying the odds

Cathy Dobson

Unwavering community support is enabling the Huron House Boys’ to stay afloat.

The Ontario government has radically reduced its funding for the 23-bed residential facility for adolescent boys, but local people continue to rally behind it.

The Boys’ Home has been an accredited children’s mental health centre for 45 years, providing services to help boys with complex problems get back on their feet.

But residential facilities across Ontario are having difficulty surviving in the 21st century. Sarnia’s Community Girls’ Home, for example, closed its doors in 2011.

For the past two years, 14 boys have lived at the Bright’s Grove home at any given time, yet only six beds are funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

While the provincial government fully funded 24 beds for decades, that began to change in the late 1990s.

“It’s not because the need isn’t there,” said executive director Don Adam. “This is a financial shortage, not a shortage of boys.

“I think there are kids out there that need the service and I’m concerned about them. I worry about where they are going to end up,” he said.

The good news is that local donations and the home’s special event fundraisers continue at an astonishing level.

“Support from this community is so fantastic,” said Adam.

This Saturday’s Men Who Cook event, for instance, has sold out, and 42 men have volunteered to feed 228 ticket holders at the Dante Club.

Men Who Cook is one of several major fundraisers the Huron House Boys’ Home hosts throughout the year and one of its most successful. If all goes as planned, the home could net $25,000 from ticket sales and a silent and live auction.

“We don’t even have to go out and look for cooks,” said Adam. “They call us because it’s so much fun.”

In fact, there’s a waiting list to cook at the event.

It’s important Men Who Cook is successful because Huron House Boys’ Home is facing a deficit this year.

Front line workers like Adam are waiting for definitive news from the province about the direction of children’s mental health services.

“They are undergoing a transformation and looking at their own budgets,” he said. “But we don’t know what or when decisions will be made.”