New drop-in centre in Charlottetown provides space for LGBTQ youths to 'be themselves'
'They're really, really excited to be able to have a space of their own'
Scott Alan hopes a new drop-in centre in Charlottetown gives LGBTQ youths the safe space to be themselves that he wished was available to him as a young gay person.
"I really just want these youth to have a safe space, to be able to be themselves without any pressures from the outside world or judgment from people around them," said Alan, the youth program co-ordinator for PEERS Alliance.
"When youth have that opportunity to just be themselves without any judgment, it helps prevent a whole onslaught of mental health issues."
The space at 250 B Queen St. is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3-5 p.m. It's aimed at youths between the ages of 12 and 18 who are looking for a safe place to hang out after school.
When youth have that opportunity to just be themselves without any judgment, it helps prevent a whole onslaught of mental health issues.— Scott Alan
The space has beanbag chairs, Mario Kart racing games, a TV, craft supplies, board games and lots of resource books.
An adult will always be present to offer advice and help with homework if needed, Alan said.
"There's quite a few youth that just hang out at the Confederation Court Mall waiting for their next program to start or after school. And that's not always a safe place for them. So they're really, really excited to be able to have a space of their own where they can just be and hang out and feel safe."
Funding for the space comes from the PEERS Alliance and donations, including the United Way and proceeds from a 50-50 draw at a recent drag show.
Youth expressed need for safe space
Alan, who visits schools once a month to provide resources for teachers and students, said the idea for the space came from speaking directly to youths.
He said it feels "amazing" to offer something that he feels would have helped him in his younger days.
"You spend a lot of your time unpacking who you are as a child ... because you hid a lot of who you are. So nobody would, you know, know that you're gay or anything like that," he said.
"If I had a space like this to be able to express myself safely, I feel like I would have become myself a lot more confidently, a lot quicker in life."
With files from Angela Walker