Youth hub set to take off

By Jenn Watt
Published May 8 2018

A promise of funding from the province has given organizers of a youth hub the confidence they need to begin planning for a space that will give young people a safe place to go when they’re not at school.

On Thursday May 3 Point in Time Centre for Children Youth and Parents executive director Marg Cox announced that an application to the Ministry of Child and Youth Services had been successful though she wasn’t sure just how successful. The grant total is not yet known.

“The ideas are endless. Some resources are here to make it happen. We can only look forward to moving forward together” she told a packed meeting room at Point in Time’s Haliburton office.

Three grant applications totalling about $1 million over three years were sent out. Haliburton County Development Corporation has committed $33000.

The group hasn’t yet heard back on a grant proposal made to the Ontario Provincial Police.

The Haliburton hub is one of six in the province receiving funding out of 39 applications. According to a press release from the provincial ministry youth wellness hubs “are walk-in centres where young people ages 12 to 25 can get one-stop access to the mental health and addictions services they need.”

In Haliburton the plan is to make the hub much more comprehensive the group heard. It would allow young people to come together and be social with some structured and unstructured activities.

One person in the audience questioned the wide age range and asked if the young people would be supervised.

Cox said there would always be staff and that programming would include activities for all young people and some tailored to specific age groups.

“We have to talk it through with the youth and parents and other service providers” Cox said. “Might there be some things that people will want to do together? Might there be some things that people want to do separately?”

Many young people at the meeting spoke up about what they wanted from a youth hub and several said they liked the wide age range included. There would be opportunities for mentorship and it would take some of the apprehension out of meeting new people particularly for elementary school kids starting high school.

“I actually really liked the idea that we’re entertaining the possibility of that big age gap” said student Liam Bergman.

Another high school student named Joey agreed: “This will be good for elementary school kids … they’ll know some high school students already when they come to high school.”

Joey and her sister Malia were involved in the application process and said they saw the hub as an opportunity to bring people together again following a year of loss. Two young people have died in the last year including their brother.

Several youth at the meeting said the space would help alleviate stress in their lives and could curtail drug use. They pointed out that there are very few places in Haliburton to go to be together. They talked about reducing stigma about mental health issues and being able to work through grief together.

Stephanie MacLaren of Haliburton Highlands Health Services said service providers would be able to bring services to youth in the space rather than asking them to repeatedly visit outside agencies.

“Youth accessing services don’t have to tell their story 20 different times to 20 different service providers” she said.

Cox said it was likely that Point in Time would locate staff members in the hub in addition to hiring new staff specifically.

Another challenge will be finding ongoing funding for the hub which could include fundraising initiatives. The grant was applied for through Point in Time but the intention is to establish a separate governance structure that includes three committees – youth parents and service providers – that each have representatives on the governance committee.

The goal is to have the hub open for October but organizers and youth representatives said they want to see something open even sooner.

Bergman said that while he thought the plan was fantastic he worried that October wasn’t soon enough. With the 705 Tribe space now closed which had been run primarily by local teenagers offering space to hang out after school there is an unfilled need.

“We still have to wait like five months. It can still be five months when people are struggling” Bergman said.

“That is one of the things we need to sit down and talk about” Cox replied. “I’m happy to do that.”

Jim Blake who was instrumental in the application process suggested a “pop-up” youth wellness centre could help bridge the gap. He said he’d read the recent article on the 705 Tribe initiative and was impressed by the energy the young people were bringing.

“If you guys want it to happen it will” he said.