Katie Davies | Top 40 Under 40 2018
Photograph by Brendan Klem in Studio Theatre at cSPACE King Edward; Hair and makeup by Tamsyn Gagne, Kira Gregory, Amy Maetche and Michelle St. Croix (Artists Within)
Job title: COO, Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary
Why she’s a 2018 Top 40 Under 40:
Katie Davies has helped Canada’s largest Boys and Girls Club create new initiatives that help youth graduate high school and address Indigenous issues and youth homelessness. She also helped create Alberta’s first youth housing program for the gender- and sexually diverse community.
Katie Davies started out with Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary (BGCC) 16 years ago as a group home worker. She recalls her first day on the job as sink or swim. “Basically, I got handed the keys, and they said, ‘okay, six kids between 12 and 18 live here, and good luck,’” Davies says. “It was actually a great experience because I just had to figure it out, so I listened to kids and heard what they had to say.”
Now as chief operating officer of Canada’s largest Boys and Girls Club, Davies no longer works on the front line, but she’s just as attentive to the needs of the roughly 20,000 youth and families BGCC serves.
The programs Davies has spearheaded are improving BGCC and the lives of Calgary youth. Her actions are guiding by one question: how can BGCC end a young person’s homelessness? “That one question ended up becoming the vision,” she says. “It cleared away the noise and the politics around what is the best thing to do.”
The change in philosophy meant shifting from treating symptoms of homelessness to addressing root causes, including trauma and family breakdown. BGCC now involves its young clients in decision-making, fostering a sense of ownership over their situations. The club has also stepped back from punitive enforcement of rules against swearing and inebriation that had ended up putting youth back onto the street.
Davies and her team have also created programs tailored to groups with higher rates of suicide and victimization, like Aura, Alberta’s first youth housing program serving the gender- and sexually diverse community, and Home Fire, a similar program for Indigenous youth. Davies and her team have also championed All In for Youth, a partnership with the United Way and other local organizations that provides resources to support kids to graduate high school.
Outside of her work with BGCC, Davies served on the board of directors for Raising the Roof, a national charity dedicated to finding solutions for homelessness, from 2013 to 2017. She has also worked with the National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness since 2012.
Davies never loses sight of why her work is important. “It’s so unjust for kids to not have somebody on their team who’s going to advocate for them and help them succeed,” she says. “All kids deserve the opportunity to be kids and we as a society have a responsibility to help every kid thrive.” —Andrew Guilbert