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Staying open: Youth centre gets some backing from city council

THUNDER BAY -- A youth centre that those who use it say is vital can keep its city-owned supplies until at least July.

THUNDER BAY -- A youth centre that those who use it say is vital can keep its city-owned supplies until at least July.

Administration recommended that the city takes its $20,000 or so worth of furniture, appliances, computers and other equipment from a Victoriaville youth centre that it helped launch. The centre started as a pilot program with Wasaya Group and the newly formed Youth Centres Thunder Bay around 18 months ago to test new program delivery for the city.

The program formally ended April 30 but Youth Centres Thunder Bay kept the doors open, saying it was vital to the area and the youth, 13-18, who need it. Along with formal programs it also helps youth with mental health, cooking and provides a safe space. It’s also used by the Children’s Aid Society’s outreach worker.

Members of the centre’s youth council waited nearly 5 hours Monday before they had the chance to explain why the centre mattered so much. President Daniel Voss said that more than 400 youth have used the centre so far. The group also showed a video with testimonials from youth at the centre.

“If the centre closed I’d be really really sad. I don’t know what I would do,” said a 13-year-old in the video.

The group has been tracking down other funding sources and can cover operational costs until September. They were asking council for any financial help in order to help cover costs until other funding was approved.

But community services manager Greg Alexander said the city’s recent budget constraints have hit his department hard, particularly youth services. The program also didn’t’ meet the expectations of his department. It would be better to take the equipment in the centre and use it elsewhere for existing city programs.

“I’m sorry I just don’t buy that,” Coun. Paul Pugh said.

There was no way the city’s budget concerns should hit a program that the city helped set up he said. Pugh said it was a step backward for the city if it didn’t help the centre and youth involved.

Coun. Rebecca Johnson agreed. The city should be helping any organization that is trying to fill a need in the community.

“At least they’re up and trying to move forward,” she said.


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