Youth Hub set to open Fall 2021
Already faced with the day-to-day challenges of growing up and transitioning into adulthood, the pandemic has taken a toll on youth as they shuffled between in-person and virtual learning in the past two school year calendars while being faced with uncertainty.
The Wood Buffalo Integrated Youth Network (WBIYN) continues its mission to connect youth and families with mental health resources by widening their support with a physical safe space for residents aged 11 to 25 to find support.
The WBIYN plans to open its new drop-in centre, named the Youth Hub, in the fall of 2021. Mara Hayward is the Youth Hub Manager at the WBIYN and hopes to make new connections while strengthening current ones.
“I am so excited to be able to have youth in our physical space. Covid has been difficult on everyone but especially our youth,” said Hayward.
Youth Network was formed in the fall of 2019 through various partner agencies, including the Canadian Mental Health Association Wood Buffalo, which will host the Youth Hub at its downtown location on Manning Avenue.
The new space’s design will be youth-friendly, complete with bean bag chairs, couches and even a hammock. It will also have computers and iPads to assist youth who want to come and do their homework, talk to the Systems Navigator or have a spot to hang out. It will be a structured drop-in format as they will occasionally feature programming like workshops and yoga sessions.
They are also hoping to collaborate with youth and Indigenous artists to decorate the space. Hayward further voiced the importance of creating an inclusive, safe space for LGBTQ+, Indigenous and POC (People of Colour) youth.
“The RMWB is such a diverse community, and we are working with our youth to represent inclusion in our physical space. We would love more input from them on what inclusion looks like to them.”
Hayward added having drop-in youth group nights is also in the planning of the new space so they can be amongst peers with similar experiences in safe and judgment-free zones.
The Youth Advisory Council, made up of community youth, meets regularly to decide on programming. WBIYN also offers assistance by operating as a Hub & Spoke model, which can help refer youth to where they need to go for specialized services.
However, the Youth Hub will continue to exist for them once referred to what Haward calls its “wraparound service.”
“One of the main reasons the youth network was created was so youth wouldn’t be handed from organization to organization without someone helping and guiding them through those transitions,” she said.
Although the WBIYN has successfully helped dozens of youth in the community, it had its share of pitfalls aside from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April 2020, the Canadian Mental Health Association offices were affected by the spring flood. And then, it experienced a temporary shutdown to the program between June and October in the same year due to a decrease in government funding. Now, secured funding is currently underway, and the organization is hopeful for September 2021 soft-open to its new space, with a grand opening tentatively planned for October. Learn more at www.woodbuffalo.cmha.ca.
Photo caption: The Wood Buffalo Integrated Youth Network’s Youth Hub Manager Mara Haywood poses in the new physical space – the Youth Hub – found inside the Canadian Mental Health Association Wood Buffalo at 111-8530 Manning Avenue. Supplied photo