ARISS – The Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Centre Wellington youth hub is set to open at the end of January or beginning of February.
The hub, which is located at the Skyline property at 900 Tower Street in Fergus’ south end, will house BBBS Centre Wellington as well as other organizations that will serve local youth, explained BBBS Centre Wellington executive director Kristen Drexler.
“Our youth engagement coordinator… [is] working with the youth … to get that youth action committee that will inform the decisions of what is going to be in that space and what does that look like and when does that happen and how does it feel and who comes in and different things like that, which is really important because the youth need to drive what they need,” Drexler said.
“As adults we think we know what they want but we have no clue.”
The Centre Wellington youth hub is part of the Integrated Youth Services Network (IYSN), which is an initiative taking place throughout Guelph and Wellington County.
A one-year update was provided on Nov. 29 at Ariss Valley Golf and Country Club.
The network was created in response to a number of statistics including, in Canada, one in five youth between the ages of 15 and 26 experience mental health and/or substance use disorders and 75 per cent of all mental health conditions have an early adulthood onset.
Since 2007 within Guelph and Wellington County there has been a 225% increase in hospitalizations for mental health and behavioural disorders and a 211% increase for intentional self-harm.
The organizations working on the IYSN found that services were either not available or accessible, not responsive to the needs and preferences of youth and family and not integrated, resulting in youth and families repeatedly falling through the cracks.
The IYSN is an attempt to bridge those gaps and provide services and supports to youth between 12 to 26 years old that they say are important to them.
The two primary partners include the Community Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington as the service partner and the Guelph Community Foundation as the funding partner.
“I would really like to encourage everybody to work towards a community where everybody is included and nobody is left behind and one of the ways that we can do that is by early intervention and support for our youth,” said Chris Willard, executive director of Guelph Community Foundation.
In addition to Centre Wellington, which will be the first hub in Wellington County, county hubs will be located in Palmerston through Minto Mental Health and Erin through East Wellington Community Services. Guelph hubs will be located at the Shelldale Family Gateway, Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington, University of Guelph and Guelph YMCA YWCA.
“This initiative is all about inclusiveness,” said Carolyn Weatherson. “Every organization that wants to be included can play a role.”
Erin youth Anika Boersman is working with the Integrated Youth Services Network, offering her input on how the hubs can reflect youth.
“Erin is an awesome place to grow up,” Boersman said. “However we have very little in the way of youth services.
“I’ve personally known many people struggling with mental health issues in my community and they have had to wait months for needed support because there was no access to youth-focused mental health services.
“My hope is that our youth hubs can help fill this void.”
She added that she hopes the hub will provide youth with a supportive and inclusive environment.
“We need an Integrated Youth Service Network, we need that and they’re going to have all these microsites peppered throughout Guelph and Wellington,” Drexler said. “So one will be in Minto and it will look very different from the one that we have because it’s what they have available in terms of space, in terms of services.”
She said some of the hubs may be a couple of classrooms in a high school that aren’t being used or extra space in an office.
“It looks different in every community and it will grow and as more people come on board … that’s the beauty of it, that it can evolve and change and be what a community needs,” Drexler said.
In Fergus, Drexler said the space is ideal for a youth hub. It’s located in the “belly of the building” and it’s not useful to Skyline because there’s no store frontage.
“We can absolutely make great use of that space because it’s this breaking the stigma of going through a door and people don’t actually know what you’re going through that door for,” Drexler said.
“It could be to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters; it might be to take a cooking class; it might be to get tutored; it might be to get some therapeutic sessions with councillors for some deep issues that you’re going through.
For more information about the Integrated Youth Services Network and youth hubs email firstname.lastname@example.org.