Youth working to create an inclusive and safe space for teens in White Rock returned to council this week to share more specifics of their plan and request funds to help make it happen.
But while city leaders praised the teens for their ideas, enthusiasm and organization, they were critical of a plan to ask White Rock and the City of Surrey to contribute equal funding to the effort.
“To expect the City of White Rock and the City of Surrey to contribute the same amount is a little bit unrealistic,” Coun. Helen Fathers told teen presenters, Tayla and Kira (last names withheld by request), who spoke alongside Alexandra Neighbourhood House youth and family worker Jessie Kergan and supervisor Maxine Larmour.
The teens are among a group of about 25 youth – dubbed the White Rock Youth Collective – who have been striving for the past 18 months to find space in uptown White Rock to call their own.
Ideally, it will be approximately 2,500 square feet, located somewhere between the Whaling Wall and 24 Avenue – but not too central, said Larmour – accessible by transit and would not have to be shared.
Monday, they shared statistics that show 20 per cent of White Rock residents are youth and 27 per cent are seniors; at the same time, the city’s seniors have access to three dedicated centres, while youth have none.
Proposed budget options included in the Sept. 29 council agenda suggest each of the cities contribute just over $92,000 to the project’s first year; a third $92,000 is hoped to come from grants.
Larmour told Peace Arch News the figures are not firm, and may vary depending on factors such as hours of operation and programming. They hope to be self-supporting by year six.
Kergan told council that securing start-up funding is critical to the success of the teens’ quest. She noted the group lost out on a space near the Whaling Wall a week ago because they didn’t have the funds at-hand.
“We have to have the money to be ready, otherwise other people sweep in,” she said.
So far, in-kind and volunteer donations total $47,600; and the group is waiting to hear on grant applications totalling $26,000. They are also hoping to win $100,000 in the online Aviva Community Fund competition. First-round voting is on now until Oct. 13.
The collective is scheduled to present their efforts, ideas and funding request to Surrey council on Oct. 15.
While White Rock Couns. Helen Fathers and Bill Lawrence both suggested Monday that finding shared space might be easier for the teens, Larmour said the youth have been clear it is not their goal.
Regarding the budget figures, Mayor Wayne Baldwin also described the equal ask as “unrealistic.”
“You may want to play with those numbers,” he said.
However, Coun. Louise Hutchinson said equal funding may well be appropriate, given the changing demographics in the White Rock/South Surrey area.
It is “a very Peninsula community and it could very well be a 50-50 community,” she said. “Our bulge is getting lower and lower when it comes to demographics.”
Council voted to refer the presentation to staff.