After years of working towards their goal, the Youth Engagement Strategy is about to make it a reality.
From the start, the YES Project set building a youth centre as one of their three goals, alongside raising awareness of the needs of youth and developing resources.
“We have been talking about this day for several years. The idea is now a reality, the time has come,” said Aaron McRann, executive director for the Community Foundation of South Okanagan Similkameen.
McRann said they have an accepted offer on a building at 501 Main St., and will take possession of the 21,000 square foot space on Jan. 15.
McRann and the YES project representatives attended Penticton city council’s meeting Tuesday to ask for support to get them into the building.
“We are asking you to invest in our youth by investing $400,000 in our new youth centre,” said McRann, noting that municipalities often make investments to benefit the community.
“I would submit there is no greater land acquisition and no greater community investment you could make than to give our youth a home, a place where they feel safe, supported loved connected and welcome within our community,” said McRann.
A funding commitment from the city will help the foundation fulfil its financing obligations for the purchase.
The project stretches back to 2012 when a bequest was left to the Community Foundation of South Okanagan Similkameen and the United Way with the intent of helping youth in Penticton.
A year-long study resulted in a 2013 report, with three key findings, one of which was the need for a youth resource centre in Penticton.
The concept isn’t just to create a place where youth can hang out or play games, or a place just to locate services for youth. Instead, the YES project is talking about building something that incorporates aspects of both.
There would be room for youth to just hang out, play games or chat, but there would also be services aimed at helping youth on site. That way, nervous or anxious youth could take whatever time they needed to be acclimated before slipping over to the services side.
McRann said the space allows room for both the centre to expand, but also create rental income by drawing in tenants, other groups that offer youth services.
“We know that when a successful youth centre is set up they outgrow their space quickly,” said McRann. “We couldn’t go into a small space and outgrow it immediately.”
Earlier this year, Penticton city council committed to helping YES find a location to build the youth centre, including the possibility of the empty city-owned lot at Nanaimo Avenue and Ellis Street. That never came to pass, but McRann asked city council to continue its support of the concept.
“It is time for the City of Penticton and all its citizens to show our youth that we care enough to invest in their health, their safety and their happiness,” said McRann.
Council referred the request to staff, asking them to come back with a proposal to meet the YES Project’s request.