Ogden youth centre officially opens days after Albert Park facility closes

An after school youth centre in southeast Calgary has lasted a summer soft launch to become a permanent fixture, as another centre just 10 kilometres to the north closed its doors only days earlier.

Soft launch becomes permanent after permits in place, executive director says

The centre serves youth from Grades 6 to 10, after school from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Submitted by Jane Wachowich)

An after school youth centre in southeast Calgary has lasted a summer soft launch to become a permanent fixture, as another centre just 10 kilometres north closed its doors only days earlier.

Ogden Youth Centre is the product of an urban study initiated about three years ago, the executive director tells The Homestretch.

"Over the last couple of years, we bought a house, opened in June and it's been going phenomenally well," Jane Wachowich said.

"We have sports, a basketball court, a music studio, reading spaces, rooms for homework, a kitchen that can serve upwards of 30 meals a day."

That June opening wasn't permanent though, while the group looked to nail down a needed land use amendment to operate in a residential area.

"We started meeting with neighbours about a year and a half ago. Our city councillor and the city was very supportive," she said.

"The city softly assured us about a year ago that we would have no trouble, pending neighbour approval, getting that amendment."

That permit is now in hand and the police and studies show spaces like this cover a lot of ground, Wachowich said.

The centre had a soft launch in June but with permit in hand, the facility is now permanent. (Submitted by Jane Wachowich)

"Crime goes down, high school graduation goes up, kids don't get into as much trouble, gang membership goes down, families are supported. It costs $100,000 a year to incarcerate a kid, and probably $50,000 to operate a centre," she said.

"It lessens the load on social services and government, and the kids are better off."

She says this centre doesn't receive government funding.

"Private donors, family foundations, companies. A lot of our costs are eliminated by wonderful people in the community who have leaned in to do the renovations, to bring food. We serve hot meals every day. I think Calgary is an amazing city for that."

The fate of another youth centre to the north in Albert Park, however, isn't as rosy.

Albert Park centre closes

Just last week the Cornerstone Youth Centre, a popular space for kids from low income families, many who are classed as at-risk, closed its doors. It was operated by a separate group.

It had been running after school prevention programs and giving around 70 kids access to breakfast, lunches and dinners that many wouldn't get at home.

The centre's executive director said the community centre that runs the city-owned building is changing direction and economic pressures are behind the closure.

Meanwhile, if Wachowich has her way, centres like Odgen's could be on the horizon in Dover, Forest Lawn, Rundle, Applewood.

"I have a list."

With files from Dan McGarvey