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Youth centre closing down

No new space available after Amacon evicts youth centre over roof dispute

By: By Peter Boer

  |  Posted: Monday, Jul 22, 2013 05:15 pm

BEHIND THE EIGHT BALL – After a tumultuous year of struggles to stay afloat, the St. Albert Youth Community Centre will close for good on Friday.
BEHIND THE EIGHT BALL – After a tumultuous year of struggles to stay afloat, the St. Albert Youth Community Centre will close for good on Friday.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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Winding down

The following events over the next week will will mark the closure of the Youth Community Centre.
Thursday July 25 – Past and present youth invited for a goodbye party at the YCC.
Friday July 26 – items for sale available for viewing at the YCC from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – YCC items available for purchase.
Monday July 29 – Farewell party for past and present staff, volunteers, board members and supporters.

After 16 years of operation, St. Albert’s Youth Community Centre (YCC) has decided to close its doors for good.

The YCC board decided last week it would cease operations effective Friday. The news comes just weeks after the board learned it would have to find a new home. Board chair and former executive director Doug Campbell said that has proven to be too difficult.

“The fact is we tried to find a spot and we could find spots that might have been in the right place, but our rent would have been too high,” said Campbell. “Or we found spots that would have been cheaper but were in the wrong spots. The bottom line is we couldn’t find a spot.”

The YCC got its eviction notice earlier this month from Grandin Park Plaza owner Amacon after a disagreement between the two about who was responsible for $33,000 in repairs to the roof. When the YCC told Amacon the lease said the landlord was responsible, Amacon told the YCC it had until the end of the month to move out.

Amacon has not commented on its decision, maintaining the affair is a private matter between landlord and tenant.

The YCC’s closure brings to an end a turbulent year that saw the centre almost close due to a funding decision by city council, yet persevere to remain open by shedding programs and staff.

Campbell said the conflict with Amacon was the final straw, but that the period of financial uncertainty last year, that saw council deny funding to the YCC it had received every year since it opened, was very taxing.

“Our numbers in terms of the drop-in centre dropped,” Campbell said. “Our enrolment in programs dropped and some of the groups that would generally have supported us financially also backed away. So we never recovered from that period.”

The Friday night programming the YCC started this year at the Salvation Army facility on St. Albert Trail will continue, Campbell said. An office space will be set up at the curling club to tie up any loose ends until the YCC’s society officially winds down Sept. 30.

Executive director Brenda O’Neill, who has worked at the YCC since 2002, said she is worried for the youth who’ve frequently used the drop-in centre.

“With what else is available for the youth in this city, at no charge, I’m concerned,” O’Neill said. “Kids have problems every day, not twice a month that an event is going to cover off.”

Groups like BAM do exist for youth in the community, Campbell and O’Neill said, but the youth who participate in these groups are different from those that have used the drop-in centre.

“I’m really hoping there is a piece in there for all of the youth in St. Albert, not just those who vote,” O’Neill said. “For the ones who don’t, the ones who don’t fit in, the ones who aren’t a part of the leadership group, the kids that are individuals on their own, not necessarily because they want to be, because they don’t fit in.”

Mayor Nolan Crouse said he was “disappointed and saddened” by the decision.

“You believe over the years that so many people have done so many good things to help so many and we look at it now and we say there is going to be a void of some kind and how does that void look?” Crouse said.

The unique part of the drop-in centre, Campbell said, was that it was a safe space for kids “where they were held accountable,” where they could find help when they needed it.

“I think no matter what has precipitated us to dissolve our society, I think we want to go out with our heads high because I think we’ve done a pretty good job in the community,” Campbell said.


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