Governor General Julie Payette is recognizing EGADZ – a youth outreach centre – as one of six recipients of the 2019 Governor General’s Innovation Awards.

Sweet Dreams, an EGADZ social housing project, offers a 14-bedroom facility in an effort to keep single mothers and their children together. It’s the first Saskatchewan recipient of the award.

Shelby Larose, 26, is one of dozens of mothers who have benefited from living in the home.

She spent two years there with her then-newborn son.

“It was better for me and my son to live here, where I was supported and given opportunities,” Larose said.

She said living in Sweet Dreams with other mothers in a similar situation was inspiring.

“When we were living in the house, you know our same goal was to keep our children and work and go to school – being able to live in a house where everyone is working on the same goal,” she said.

EGADZ Executive Director Don Meikle said watching the transformation of Larose and other women has been a privilege.

“It’s a real honour. It makes you want to do more,” he said.

The project came together with the help of a social impact bond – a model that sees money raised from private sector investors, charities or foundations given to service providers to cover operating costs.

The provincial government repays investors if the agreed upon outcome is achieved.

Between 2014 and 2019, the criterion was that 22 children had to remain out of foster care six months after leaving the home.

Sweet Dreams exceeded those expectations. During that time span, 54 out of 55 children who left Sweet Dreams remain with their mothers.

Meikle’s work is set to receive national recognition at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on May 29.

The winners are recognized for their groundbreaking work and excellence in innovation.

Meikle’s mission is to keep kids out of foster care after they leave the home.

“It’s trying to get them at a time of crisis, when they need it and get them a place as safe as possible,” Meikle said.

Larose was in and out of youth detention and struggled with substance abuse – she is now living on her own, studying social services and working at EGADZ.