03/13/2012 12:47 EDT | Updated 05/13/2012 05:12 EDT

Saskatchewan's first emergency youth shelter opens for teens with nowhere to go

REGINA - Greg Melissen says walking in the door of Saskatchewan's first emergency youth shelter changed his life.

Melissen, 16, was on hand Tuesday when the Regina-based facility called Downtown Browne's Emergency Youth Shelter officially opened. The shelter will house up to 15 young people between the ages of 16 and 18.

Melissen has already been there just over a week.

"If this centre didn't take me in, I would be out on the streets. I'd be doing drugs. I wouldn't care about my life anymore. I'd just give up," he said in an interview.

The Saskatchewan government put up almost $2 million to build and operate the shelter which is operated by Street Culture Project Inc., a non-profit charitable organization.

Social Services Minister June Draude said the shelter will help teens who don't have any other options.

"There's no family options left. There's no extended family options left. There's no place else for them to go," said Draude.

The teens can be referred to the shelter by Social Services or another source approved by the ministry. They can also just walk in the door.

Street Culture CEO Kim Sutherland said the facility will get teens off the streets and into a safe setting.

"When we had to do a referral for emergency housing, until this opened, we were putting these young, very vulnerable young men and women into situations with — and no offence — but 40 to 50-year-old street-involved males and females to where there were safety issues at many, many levels," said Sutherland.

Sutherland said it's the first step. The teens can stay for up to 30 days and get help before moving onto longer placements.

Melissen is trying to find a job, finish high school and he eventually wants to go to university.

"I want my life to be turned around," he said.

"I don't want to be sitting here doing stupid things now and end up getting in trouble when I'm 18. I've got so much time, I could change my life around so fast."