A Winnipeg boxing club is trying to take at-risk youth off the streets and offer them a place to live, positive role models and training in the ring.
Pan Am Place has converted an Exchange District building into a haven for the city’s youth.
16-year-old Brandon Barron goes three times a week. He joined the free classes in January but said he’s picked up a lot more than boxing skills at the lessons.
"[I’ve learned] discipline and self control, I guess," he said.
Barron said he makes a point to keep busy because of peer pressure to join gangs. He said he has already seen some of his friends go down that path.
"You feel bad for them. It’s like they feel like they have to do it," he said.
Pan Am Place houses men between 18 and 25 who are looking for stability and positive change.
The director of the program, Matt Roucek, said they aim to eliminate some of the worry that comes with thinking, "’Where is my rent money coming from? Where is my food money coming from?’ We’re going to give them independent living skills at the same time."
Right now, Roucek has 30 beds to fill. He said construction has just completed, and now, youth can start moving in.
But those who want to move in must be pursuing an education or trade or be on the lookout for a job.
Roucek also requires "a healthy lifestyle as far as no drugs, and they’re working out. They have a certain number of volunteer hours they have to put in each week, just to be better community citizens."
Roucek said the target audience is young men who grew up in foster care -- some of whom may have aged out of the child and family services system.