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Impact of youth centre closure unclear

City report raises concern about service gap for some St. Albert youth

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 01:46 pm

IMPACT UNKNOWN – An investigation into the impact of last summer's closure of the Youth Community Centre has turned up little concrete information, but city staff believe there is a gap in service to some youth.
IMPACT UNKNOWN – An investigation into the impact of last summer's closure of the Youth Community Centre has turned up little concrete information, but city staff believe there is a gap in service to some youth.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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It’s tough to tell what impact the closure of the Youth Community Centre has had in St. Albert, say city staff.

“We weren’t able to find any concrete conclusions,” said Chris Jardine, general manager of community and protective services. “Far too many assumptions and biases come into play.”

Prompted by a motion from Mayor Nolan Crouse, city council asked staff last fall to look into the impact of the closure. The investigation included the hiring of an external contractor to interview outgoing board members and former employees of the centre.

The youth centre closed last July. The main reason for the closure was a dispute between the centre and the landlord, though there were also some funding issues.

The report noted that the closure seems to have created a service gap, that there’s a need for a free, drop-in place for youth who aren’t “joiners,” meaning they aren’t inclined to join organized activities. Some of the youth who frequented the centre could be considered vulnerable for various reasons, the report states.

An inventory of all the services and programming for youth in St. Albert was taken as part of the report.

Jardine said administration is recommending a three-pronged approach:

• Receive the report for information.

• Develop a policy identifying an overarching direction for youth programming that aligns with the social master plan and bring it to council by May 2015.

• Have staff from Family and Community Support Services work with local youth-serving organizations, churches and community groups to address programming gaps left by the youth centre closure.

That approach was approved unanimously by council.

“There’s no one silver bullet model,” Jardine said.

Crouse said he felt the recommendations were “soft.”

“We’re still missing how we serve those individuals that are included in this report that don’t want to be joiners,” Crouse said. “Somehow we’re still not addressing what’s written in this report.”

The mayor said he’d support the motions recommended by staff but noted he’s had everyone from youth to school board trustees lay the blame on him for the closure.

“Unless you walk a mile in my shoes on this, you don’t quite understand the pressure and the heat that comes my way,” Crouse said.


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