Spence Neighbourhood Association crowdfunds $17K for youth at risk

In 13 days, more than $17,000 has been raised by the Spence Neighbourhood Association to fund staffing for a 24/7 youth drop in centre.

Executive director says community didn't want to wait for government money to start fundraising

Youth show support for the Spence Neighbourhood Association's West End 24/7 Safe Space drop-in campaign. (Trevor Dineen)

The Spence Neighbourhood Association (SNA) is listening to their community, and not waiting for government funding to start work on their 24-hour youth drop in centre.

SNA has applied for funding from various levels of government to create the West End 24/7 Safe Space, where young people in crisis can spend the night.

Jamil Mahmood, SNA's executive director, said currently, youth in crisis have few options in the West End.

The community wanted to start fundraising (now), they don't want to sit on their hands.-  Jamil Mahmood

"Right now they're going to [bad] places," said Mahmood. "Drug houses, gang houses, places where parties are going on."

The 24-hour safe space would be an expansion of their current program, which offers a Monday to Friday drop-in between 3:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. out of the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre on Langside Street.

According to Mahmood, they would roll the program out on weekends at first, and then expand depending on demand.

Mahmood said his experience with their current drop-in program has demonstrated that "there's a mix of kids who are chronically in need of safe housing."

SNA expects a government decision on the funding by January, and would aim to open the doors by spring break. In the meantime they're not going to sit around waiting for that to happen.

In late November, the SNA started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $25,000 to fund two positions: an elder/grandmother and a youth mentor in residence.

Even the people don't have a lot of money to give care so much about this project.- Jamil Mahmood

"The community wanted to start fundraising [now] to show their support … they don't want to sit on their hands," said Mahmood.

The community also wanted to demonstrate to the government that they're behind this project all the way, Mahmood added.

In less than two weeks the campaign has raised over $17,000, with several donations around the $1,000 mark. Mahmood said while he's thankful for the large donations, the fact that more than 200 people have donated is the most encouraging thing to him.

"The big donations speak for themselves, but for me, what's really moved me is the small donations and how they add up," Mahmood said.

"Even the people [who] don't have a lot of money to give care so much about this project."


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