Since the closure of the Globe Youth Centre in December 2010, the youth who formerly attended it have been hoping, dreaming, and organizing for its revitalization. Housed in the historic Centenary United Church on 24 Main Street West, the centre was a staple for newcomer youth in Hamilton. Through collaboration from youth and community groups, many obstacles have been overcome, and the space is now operating once again as a youth centre. Although the new centre is distinct from its predecessor, its growth is defined by placing the needs, concerns, and leadership of its youth at its core.
“I was devastated when it closed,” said Rushna, 17. “It was really saddening. There was nowhere else downtown I could go to hang out. I couldn’t believe it at first.”
Rushna, who had come to the Globe regularly since it opened, joined with six other regulars and turned their frustration into action. They formed a group called the “Globe Saviors” and began organizing to try and save the centre.
“We came up with a lot of plans of what to do. We were all really determined to keep it open. We brainstormed. We made flyers.”
With SISO owing $32,000 to Centenary United upon closure, the youth who attended the centre as well as the church itself, were left with an obstacle.
While the youth were busy organizing, the church had to make logistical decisions. “We looked at our responsibility to the wider community,” said Ian Sloan, Minister at Centenary United Church. “The church made an offer to SISO to settle by leaving the contents of the Globe, leaving the church with the material resources to possibly keep the space as a youth centre.”
“The key goal of the centre is to focus on youth empowerment and to engage young people in its leadership and decision-making.”
By February, they had secured the space and contents and began looking for partners to host programs out of the centre.
Empowerment Squared, a youth and volunteer-led initiative, became an ideal collaborator for the space. By April, they moved a long-running homework club to the centre. They later expanded to summer programs for children and youth including regular drop-ins, day trips, games, crafts, snacks, sports, special events and more.
The centre is still far from being as busy as it once was – but the initiative from the youth has aided in its revitalization. Now, the youth centre is almost entirely volunteer-run and open to all youth.
Jennifer Hompoth, a Centenary member who previously volunteered at the Globe, now spends three days a week volunteering at the centre. She has helped to shape the centre as a place with a broader mandate – from a centre exclusively for newcomer youth – to a place that aspires to transcend boundaries and yet remain strongly committed to diversity.
Hompoth explained the vision of this centre: striving towards the idea of diversity came out of “a recognition that youth have a range of identities, so rather than putting youth into a box, we are seeking to promote diversity… to acknowledge and to work across differences…many youth who might be identified as newcomers may also bring their friends from school and introduce them to a space that genuinely belongs to them. The centre strives to be a safe space for creativity and diversity to flourish”, she said.
A key goal of the centre is to focus on youth empowerment and to engage young people in its leadership and decision-making. To each collaborator’s preference, the centre is not run by an agency telling the youth what is happening, “It’s a collaborative effort both between the groups and between the groups and the youth,” said Dunton. The youth particularly find strength in this model.
“For me the youth centre is a place you can just be yourself…It’s like a second home. It keeps you in a balance,” said Rushna. “In high school there is a lot going on and this place you just forget about it. It’s like a sanctuary.”
Jaime-Lee, 17 said, “The youth centre gives us a sense of value. I can come here and meet new people, learn new things, and be involved in my community. I feel like I have another family, more friends, and more networks I can turn to when something is wrong or if I have ideas.”
Jennifer, 16 said, “I think the youth centre is great because we get to do things we really like and meet new people.”
Valentina, 17 said, “It’s important because it brings people together. It’s a community. It’s a great centre.”
As for the future of the centre, Sloan and his congregation hope for a “really thriving and active space in which youth are engaged and able to build skills, capacity, and understanding that filter through their own lives and extend into the wider community.”
Photo and Article by Michelle Drew