Funding keeps teen support in place

Teen Junction establishes permanent funding through Regional District of North Okanagan

Stable funding means a Vernon agency is making a difference for teens at risk.

The Teen Junction Youth Centre has been expanding its programs since the Regional District of North Okanagan decided to provide permanent funding in May.

“It means Teen Junction will not be faced with closure again,” said Debbie Schiller, executive director.

“It has allowed us to expand and look to the future instead of worrying about whether we can pay the bills.”

Teen Junction provides a number of services to disadvantaged youth between the ages of 14 and 18, including recreation, meals, clothing and an advocate to help youth return to school.

Referrals are also made to other services such as housing, counselling and addiction treatment.

RDNO provided $66,000 this year, and that has helped increase the drop-in program from 17 to 22 hours per week.

“We have increased hot meals from three to five hours a week,” said Michelle Freebairn, youth programs co-ordinator.

A variety of field trips also take place.

“We got to the waterslides, tubing at Silver Star and we went to the beach and kayaking this year,” said Freebairn.

Christmas dinners bring teens, staff and volunteers together while a program has helped individuals transition from their teens to adult life.

Among the clients is Jade Hood, who is 17 but began going to Teen Junction when she was 13.

“The person I am today they helped me become,” said Hood, who is in school and raising a daughter.

Teen Junction’s long term goals are to expand operations to 26 hours a week, provide after-school activities for Grade 7 students and hire an outreach worker for street entrenched youth.

Schiller says RDNO’s participation has helped leverage support from the community.

“When people know we’re stable, it’s easier to access other funds,” she said.

While taking on another function can create financial challenges, RDNO director Buffy Baumbrough believes supporting Teen Junction made sense.

“It’s good to see the money allocated to programs is having an impact,” she said.

“I hope the programs will encourage teens to move forward with their lives in a positive way.”