YFC defends 6 hours a week of free drop-in programs for kids
Other centres say free, accessible programs key to filling need, keeping centres full
Drop-in centres for inner city children and young people say their programs are full because they are accessible and nearly cost-free.
CBC's I-Team found earlier this week that the The Youth for Christ Centre of Excellence on Higgins and Main, which received nearly $6 million in government funds, is facing criticism from community advocates that it is not accessible to young people who need it most.
YFC has no free drop-in programs Friday through Monday.
There are six hours of free drop-in evening programs - four hours of rock climbing Tuesday and Thursday and two hours of skateboarding Wednesday.YFC has paid drop-in programming Monday through Friday, ranging from $1 to $10, depending on the activity.
In contrast, skateboarding and other activities at the North Y Youth Centre in Point Douglas are free, and the centre is open after school Monday to Friday till 9 p.m. and on the weekends from noon til 9 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday.
The Y's Ken Mason said if a young person in the North End wants something to do, all he or she has to do is drop in.
"We're convenient, we're open, we are only open outside of school hours," he said.
Mason said the cost, $5 a year for a membership, is there only to teach the kids about responsibility and give them a sense of ownership.
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"At the same time you are telling us what you want, you also need to take care of it," he said. "Don't be writing on the walls or leaving your garbage laying around."
Mason said the model works, and the centre's 1,500 members proves it.
Another organization, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg, has been offering free drop-in and scheduled programs for 37 years.
President and CEO Ron Brown said the programs are free because a cost, even a small one, can make the difference for many families.
"It's one of the barriers between participating and not and that can be minimal between participating and not. It depends on your family's economics," he said.
Brown admits it's a constant financial struggle for the centres, but he said it's worth it to ensure young people have a safe and fun place to go.
YFC executive director John Courtney defended the centre's six hours of free drop-in programming a week, saying it meets the needs of at-risk youth.
"I would say that one thing that we've learned by being here is that the more organized and structured programs are the ones that are the most attractive to the kids," he said. "So youth engagement in sports, in terms of being on a floor hockey team or on a soccer team or any of these sports teams, the drop-in model isn't as effective as the sign up and be a part of something here."