Funding continues for Teen Junction

Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members have agreed to another year of $66,000 in operating funding for Teen Junction

Youth at risk in Vernon continue to have high-level support.

Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members have agreed to another year of $66,000 in operating funding for Teen Junction.

“We have stabilized because of the core funding,” said Debbie Schiller, Teen Junction executive director.

GVAC provided funding last year after there was a concern the agency would close because of uncertainty over provincial grants.

Upwards of 30 youth use the facility at least once a week and they include youth who have lived at a safe house or Transition House, teens who are on probation, young parents trying to keep their babies or individuals struggling with substance abuse.

Many of them are not in school or they are in foster care.

“They have lived with neglect. This is not your average kid in Vernon,” said Schiller.

“We have a boy who hitch-hikes from the Okanagan Indian Band every day because that (Teen Junction) is his home — his safe place.”

Thirty to 50 per cent of the clients identify themselves as aboriginal.

Among the programs provided are recreation, crafts, a garden, computers and field trips.

Hot meals are available five nights a week and the teens can develop cooking skills.

“Our kids are hungry. They don’t have enough to eat (at home),” said Schiller.

Attempts are also made to get them to return to school and access other programs that will improve their lives.

“When our staff connects  with them, we can pass them on to another agency,” said Schiller.

Teen Junction is looking to the future and its five-year plan includes opening six days a week (five currently), a Grade 7 after-school program, transportation to get kids home and a part-time outreach worker to engage with street- entrenched youth.