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Staying open

THUNDER BAY -- A youth centre has vowed to keep its doors open despite the end of its pilot project status with the city.
Youth Centres Thunder Bay president Colleen Peters (Jamie Smith,

THUNDER BAY -- A youth centre has vowed to keep its doors open despite the end of its pilot project status with the city.

The pilot project between the City of Thunder Bay and the Wasaya Group launched Youth Centres Thunder Bay in Victoriaville Mall in late 2012 to test a model for youth services.

Funding for the project ended on April 30, but Youth Centres Thunder Bay is continuing on saying it has serviced more than 240 youth on the South side of the city and fills a need in the area.

"There is no other centre like this in the community," board president Colleen Peters said.

The centre offers youth between 13 and 18 programming from homework help to cooking to the arts. There's also non-structured activities like computer access.

The centre has been forced to reduce its hours to three days a week since the pilot project ended, but it is still needed for marginalized youth Peters said.

"They can come here, they can hang out with each other, they can read ,they can always get a healthy meal and have a safe place to unwind," Peters said.

The centre costs around $70,000 a year to operate and is in various stages of funding requests from government agencies and the private sector.

Officials with the Youth Centre are now asking the city for a one-time $25,000 donation to help with operating costs while it's in that process. But really anything would help.

If the city doesn't come through, Peters said the centre will just have to work that much harder to stay afloat.

"It will be a struggle but I'm confident that we'll be able to keep the doors open," she said.
Mayor Keith Hobbs said the city is strapped right now as it has already restructured and cut management positions to battle costs from winter weather.

"It is a bad time right now for anyone to ask for money," he said.

"Right now I really want to tighten the purse strings so I don't think I'll be supporting that."

Hobbs wants the city to look long-term for its youth programming, maybe using the Fort William Gardens as a youth and senior centre along with the idea of using vairous community centres.

Peters said the organization is in favour of the city's plan to eventually have a permanent youth facility but the centre at Victoriaville is a good stop-gap measure while the city works out its plan.



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