Thunder Bay·Video

'A place to go where they are safe': Dryden youth centre re-opens

After many months of searching for funding and preparation, community agencies have announced the re-opening of a youth centre in Dryden, Ont.

Youth centre has been closed since pilot project in summer of 2019

There is once again a youth centre in Dryden, Ont., as community agencies were able to find funding to re-open the centre until May 2022, while they seek more permanent funding. (Logan Turner / CBC)

After many months of searching for funding and preparation, community agencies have announced the re-opening of a youth centre in Dryden, Ont.

Located in the Children's Resource Centre at 113 Albert Street, the centre is filled with art supplies, board games, sports equipment and it also has free internet connection. The goal of the centre is to offer a safe space for young people to go and spend time.

"We're a smaller community and we don't have a lot of places for kids who are not in organized sports, or places for kids just to go and hang out outside of school," said Const. Denise Szachury of the Dryden Police Service.

Watch | A tour of Dryden's newly re-opened youth centre

Dryden Youth Centre Re-opens

6 months ago
Duration 2:31
After being closed for nearly two years, the city of Dryden, Ont., once again has a safe space for young people in the community. 2:31

"Kids are cooped up, and they need a place to go where they are safe and where they can just hang out with their friends," Szachury added. "This space provides them that."

The centre is open for young people aged 11 to 16 to drop by and have unstructured play, as well as giving the kids a chance to take part in supervised programming.

Prior to the pandemic, Dryden's police service conducted surveys in local schools to ask them what they wanted to see in their community. The overwhelming response, Szachury told CBC News, was a youth centre.

"They just wanted a safe place to go where they can just be themselves," she added.

Denise Szachury, a constable with the Dryden Police Service, says the youth centre will provide a safe space for young people in the community. (Logan Turner / CBC)

The City of Dryden had also identified a youth centre as something that was needed under their community and well-being plan.

In the summer of 2019, a youth centre was opened for several weeks as a pilot. Over 37 days, more than 120 young people went to the facility, with close to 600 visits total.

That was a clear sign of the desire from youth in the community for a more permanent space, according to Henry Wall, the chief administrative officer for the Kenora District Services Board (KDSB).

Wall says the coalition of community agencies were able to find funding to keep the youth centre open until May 2022, but they are on the lookout for additional grants.

Henry Wall, the chief administrative officer for the Kenora District Services Board, says young people must feel a sense of belonging in Dryden, Ont., and he hopes the youth centre will help create that. (Logan Turner / CBC)

"When we look at northern Ontario, especially northwestern Ontario, we're leading the province in youth suicides. We're leading the province in youth living in poverty, and we're leading the province in youth struggling with mental health and addictions," Wall told CBC News.

"That requires us to think differently as a community, especially smaller rural communities, saying we actually need to make an exceptional effort to come together and let our young people know … we see you, we hear you, and we're going to do all we can to make sure you belong in this community."

With files from Matt Vis

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