Growing up is not easy. As adults, we sometimes forget how many challenges youth face on a daily basis.
Since the tragic suicide of 15 year old Jamie Hubley on October 14th, many questions have been raised. How could this have been prevented? Where could Jamie have turned to for help?
Where can youth go if they are dealing with depression, if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts? Where can kids go if they do not feel safe at home? How can they address homophobic bullying in their schools?
Luckily, Ottawa has many resources available for youth. Many organizations work with youth; here are just a few of them:
Pink Triangle Youth (PTY) is a drop-in youth group for people ages 12-24, organized through Ottawa’s Pink Triangle Services. It is a safe, sex positive space for queer youth. Every Wednesday, anywhere between 25 and 40 youth attend this drop-in group.
Merissa Taylor-Meissner is the Senior Coordinator of Pink Triangle Youth (PTY). She works with other volunteers to organize workshops and facilitate discussions among participants.
“The workshops are about issues that queer youth face today, such as coming out, bullying, mental health stigma, what kind of resources are available and how to reach out to friends who might be suffering”, explains Taylor-Meissner. “We also do fun ones, like feminism, kink 101, and sexual health. We make sure to cover a wide variety of topics.
Taylor-Meissner shares that, for many queer youth who come from a place where their sexual orientation or their gender identity isn’t accepted, PTY is the only place that they feel like they can be themselves. “”If you come from a place where you aren’t accepted, attending a group with people who have had similar experiences helps you feel like you can be yourself and creates a safe space,” says Taylor-Meissner.
Pink Triangle Services is a very small organization that offers many programs and services, not just for youth. They are always looking for donations or volunteers to assist in their programming efforts.
Pink Triangle Youth takes place every Wednesday, from 7pm to 9pm at 251 Bank Street.
Is there an issue with bullying at your local high school? If so, Jer’s Vision can help. Canada’s first national youth-run diversity organization, Jer’s Vision goes into schools in Ottawa and works with youth to address the culture of homophobic & transphobic bullying by engaging straight youth to become allies who understand the experiences of their LGBTQ peers and support them.
Volunteers from Jer’s Vision visit schools across Canada, in order to educate students and staff on how to prevent bullying in their schools through workshops, youth initiatives and conferences. They will work closely with teachers and with Gay-Straight Alliances or Rainbow Clubs in order to overcome discriminative behaviours. “The goal of Jer’s Vision is to prevent bullying before it becomes an issue,” says Executive Director Jeremy Dias. “We work with students and teachers and give the tools that they need to promote diversity in their schools.”
Jer’s Vision started as an organization running a single scholarship to recognize students who work to promote diversity in their schools and work to end bullying. In five years, the organization has grown to include activities in every province and territory.
“Our organization does one crucial thing: change the culture of the schools to make it safer and more respectful for all, including victims, bullies and bystanders” says Dias. “Success will not come from one presentation, but from ongoing work with these schools and communities, and that includes everything from workshops, field trips, conferences, dialogues, art events, and so much more!”
In addition to their hands-on work in school, Jer’s Vision runs the International Day of Pink, a campaign against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia and Transphobia in schools and communities. “We invite everyone to celebrate diversity by wearing a pink shirt and by organizing activities in their workplaces, organizations, communities and schools on April 11, 2012,” says Dias.
Jer’s Vision is a volunteer based organization. They are always looking for people to help, donate and get involved. To invite Jer’s Vision to your school, community organization or business, check them out at www.jersvision.org.
Jer’s Vision is located at 440 Albert Street.
Operation Come Home (OCH) works with at-risk and homeless youth, in order to prevent them from becoming homeless adults. OCH offers many programs and services for homeless youth, in areas like education, outreach, housing and employment. “If we can give youth the resources they need now, they will not end up living in the streets and are less likely to become homeless adults,” says Jamie Hammond, OCH’s Communications Officer.
OCH operates a drop-in and resource centre for youth aged 16 to 25. The centre is open from Monday to Friday, 8am to 12pm. This is the only morning drop-in centre for youth in Ottawa. Breakfast is prepared for them, and youth can access the clothing cupboard, with clothes, hygiene products and sleeping bags. They also have access to phones and computers if they need to check their emails or look for jobs. There are social support workers who work at the centre they might need.
OCH operates the Rogers Achievement Centre, which is the only on-site high school for at-risk youth in Ottawa. Youth aged 16 to 30 who have a couple of credits they need to complete or that are working on their GED, can register to attend this school. Students are able to work at their own pace and a teacher from the Ottawa Catholic School Board is available to help them every day. “Just because someone is not in school doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be there,” says Hammond. “Youth who don’t fit in the conventional learning environment or who get kicked out of their house might not be inclined to go back to school. Our Achievement Centre allows them to continue their education.”
OCH operates two social enterprises: BottleWorks and BeadWorks. BottleWorks is a successful bottle pick up service that employs 2-3 youth. The program works with many restaurants in downtown Ottawa. Youth will collect the bottles and keep the money received. Restaurants get a tax receipt for participating in this program. Also, BottleWorks has a new partnership with Beau’s Brewery for a residential delivery service, called BYBO (Buy Your Beau’s Online). Customers can order their Beau’s products online, and have them delivered by OCH’s BottleWorks service, starting November 25th. BeadWorks is a program where youth come into the studio and make jewelry. All the materials 1are provided and the jewelry is sold, with 75% of the profits go to the youth and 25% going back to the program. OCH now has a store front and is currently trying to draw in more people into the studio.
OCH also operates the Job Action Centre, where they offer a pre-employment program for a 12 week period, for youth aged 16 to 30. From Monday to Friday, 8 or 9 youth work on resume building, interview techniques, cover letter writing. They get certified in WHMIS, Smart Serve, First Aid and CPR, Conflict Resolution. They get paid to minimum wage. “By the end of the program, the goal is for them to either go back to school or to get a job,” says Hammond. “We work with youth to overcome barriers that might prevent them for getting a job.”
OCH offers many other programs, such as a healthy lifestyle program and a housing assistance program. Up to 250 youth take advantage of OCH’s programs every month. “Since we moved locations from Murray Street to Gloucester Street, our intake of youth has double or tripled,” says Hammond.
OCH is always accepting for donations for their drop-in centre, such as milk and coffee, canned goods, and clothing. In the wintertime, they are always short on coats or long sleeved shirts for men and women. Any donation is appreciated.
Operation Come Home is located at 150 Gloucester Street.
If you know a youth in need, reach out and look within our community. There are many organizations in the Ottawa area who work tirelessly to support youth.
Interested in supporting the work of these amazing organizations? Get involved! These organizations rely heavily on volunteers. Cannot give your time to these organizations? Feel free to make a donation. Every bit helps.