Youth group continue to work on finding dedicated space

Group lobbying for funding from Surrey and White Rock

A group of Peninsula youth are still working to bring their idea of founding a safe and sober space in White Rock to fruition.

White Rock mayor and council heard from director of leisure services Eric Stepura March 2 regarding the youth space project headed by the White Rock Youth Collective, when he recommended staff continue to work with the City of Surrey and community partners to explore long- and short-term solutions for a space in uptown White Rock.

The group has been lobbying for funding for the youth space since 2014, when they asked for $92,600 from both Surrey and White Rock for a one-year startup operation, or, alternatively, $304,900 over a five-year period.

The proposal was rejected by both city councils. However, there has been ongoing discussion on finding an alternative solution, including the use of an existing space, Stepura told council.

He also noted that the youth group is now aiming for a grant of $36,000 to provide rent for a small uptown commercial space after successful fundraising efforts.

“Their greatest challenge is to find the financial means to pay for the monthly rent of a commercial space,” Stepura said, noting the group has received tremendous support from Alexandra Neighbourhood House youth workers.

Council voted unanimously to receive the information and directed staff to continue discussing options for the space.

Jessie Kergan, who has been working extensively with the youth on the project, told Peace Arch News after the council meeting that she felt positive about the recommendations.

“I know – and all the kids know and everyone in the project knows – that this kind of thing doesn’t happen overnight,” she said. “There’s a process that has to happen. And we have all these wonderful people who want to support us, but it’s about figuring out the right way.”

The Alexandra Neighbourhood House youth and family worker noted that the group was happy to not hear a ‘no’ on continuing the project. Kergan added that White Rock Coun. Lynne Sinclair – who expressed her support at the meeting – has been a “champion” of the project.

“Even when you wish something more was happening or happening faster, it’s all a process,” she said. “And I think learning that process is really an essential life skill.”

Kergan added that the youth have learned from the process and that the project has brought them closer together, noting a sense of belonging is one of the biggest impacts they told her they have experienced.

While they continue to work with both cities, the youth will also be focusing on two new projects, including a youth social, aimed at getting more youth involved in the project, and an intergenerational art workshop.

“So many times, people don’t necessarily believe young people can make a difference – but they are just so amazing. I am just so inspired by them all the time,” Kergan said.

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