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Grant allows organization to provide in-person support for youth

'There is now a place where youth can come in and connect with each other,' says official with Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County
Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey, YoNDL (Yo No Drama Llama), the YouthCALL mascot, and Amanda Fellows from Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County took part in a funding announcement on Wednesday.

A grant from the province is going a long way to help a local organization with its mission to improve the lives of youth in the region.

On Wednesday, Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County (CFS) and Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey announced the two-year, $200,000 Resilient Communities Fund grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Awarded last summer, the grant has allowed CFS to focus on providing youth between the ages of 12 and 17 with new, weekly drop-ins in Barrie, Orillia, Bradford and Collingwood, as part of the free, inclusive YouthCALL program.

Amanda Fellows, CFS community program manager, told BarrieToday the organization had been soft-launching some youth drop-ins around the county, but Wednesday was the hard launch for Barrie.

“What that means is that there is now a place where youth can come in and connect with each other. It is staffed by youth outreach co-ordinators who can provide access to mental health support, housing supports, 2SLGTBQIA+ supports and, essentially, a place for those who need to connect in person to do so,” said Fellows.

Funds from the grant are being used to help with staffing and administrative costs that enable CFS to deliver the program for young people living in Simcoe County.

The drop-in program will be offered at the newly renovated program room at the CFS building at 20 Anne St. S.

YouthCALL is a collaborative led by CFS in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Gilbert Centre, New Path, Youth Haven and CONTACT Community Services.

Fellows said the services have become more vital since the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic have been lifted.

“We transitioned a lot of the services we did for youth to online during COVID, and what we have been hearing is the need to (have) face-to-face and in-person events and communication,” she said.

In a provided statement, Downey called the initiative “a fantastic example of what happens when community leaders work together to ensure the needs of the vulnerable members of our society are met.”

YouthCALL Service Link offers a variety of low-barrier support services for people 12 to 28 years old, although the new drop-ins and existing Discord server are limited to the younger crowd.

The program’s live-answer helpline, staffed by trained youth workers Monday to Friday, is available to the full age range.