The building at 501 Main Street may seem quiet now, but in the next month big changes are coming – construction will start to renovate the main and upper floor to prepare for the Youth Resource Centre and Foundry Penticton.
Funded by the $1.2 million ‘Future Starts Here’ fundraising campaign launched by the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan|Similkameen, the centre will be a hub of collaborative youth services and resources for youth aged 12 to 24 and their families.
The Community Foundation is the organization behind the Youth Engagement Strategy (YES) project, which helped identify the need for a youth centre in Penticton. With the purchasing of 501 Main Street by the foundation thanks to a separate $1 million fundraising campaign and the renovation of the building about to commence, the project is finally coming to fruition.
“It’s been five years, it started with a gift from an estate that the Community Foundation and the United Way received at the same time. We pooled our resources and collaborated on a vision for youth services in the community,” said Aaron McRann, executive director of the Community Foundation. “We did a bunch of research and worked with youth and service providers to find out what the needs were in the community.”
“It was determined that we needed more accessible activities, better communication between youth and adults, and advocacy for youth needs, and a youth centre. The last one we never thought it would happen,” said McRann.
The organizations want to stress just how fundamental youth engagement has been in this project since the beginning. Numerous consultation has been done with area youth to provide input as to what should be included in the centre.
“Youth really are the backbone of the YES Project, and without them this project and this building wouldn’t exist,” said Amberlee Erdmann, coordinator of the YES Project. “Youth have guided us in direction of the YES Project, as well as projects and activities right down to the location of where the centre was to be built.”
The main floor of the building will be the location of Foundry Penticton. Foundry has over 100 partnerships in communities across B.C. that help youth access health and social services.
OneSky Community Resources is the lead agency for establishing Foundry in the city.
“Foundry Penticton is all about transforming access to health and social services. So just making it really easy for young people to start that first conversation or get questions answered and bring health and social services under one friendly roof,” said Ian Gerbrandt, program director with OneSky.
According to Gerbrandt, there are 4500 youth in Penticton and approximately one in five youth “are going to struggle with mental health or substance use issues.”
“The thing that’s really concerning is only about 25 per cent of those youth actually seek help or get the help they need. So it’s all about making it easier to get the care and connection supports, and the parents, trying to support them,” said Gerbrandt.
Other community organizations that will be located in the building include YMCA Jumpstart, the Arc Program, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and Interior Health. According to Gerbrandt, the centre’s location makes it that much more accessible to youth in the city.
Tanya Behardien, executive director of OneSky Community Resource, said the organization’s participation in the youth centre and establishing Penticton Foundry aligns with OneSky’s values.
“We take a strong perspective on community development. So whatever happens in the community, it’s important to us not to be the lead partner but to play and role and help find solutions,” said Behardien. “So the Foundry piece was a natural fit for us because of the kinds of services we offer for youth and families.”
Because the building is multilevelled, the Penticton Foundry will be the largest Foundry in B.C. The basement of the building is unfinished and the organizations plan to use it as flex space until it is determined what else the centre can provide once it opens.
While the resources that will be offered in the centre already exist in the community, Erdmann said youth can often “fall through the cracks due to the confidentiality of those places.” The centre will make it easier for organizations to collaborate and provide enhanced care.
The centre is set to open in spring of 2019. For more information about the YES Project and the Youth Centre and Penticton Foundry, visit www.pentictonyouth.ca.
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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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