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City decision to begin charging for some services at youth centre not a new one: CFO

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
September 18th, 2017

To fee or not to fee.

That is not a question when it comes to the city’s youth centre; it has always been there.

But an online petition to “Keep the Youth Centre free for Youth” is being assembled for presentation to the City of Nelson to eliminate what is felt to be a recent decision to institute fees at the centre.

Over 2,150 names are now on the petition — started by former youth centre manager Stephanie Meitz — to overturn the decision to charge for admittance and access to programs at the Nelson and District Youth Centre beginning this fall.

“This means that the youth who frequent the space the most, and need it the most, being our most marginalized youth will no longer be able to use this space,” Meitz wrote on the petition website.

“We have many youth living in poverty, youth in foster care, and youth with a need for community who are now being preventing from accessing a space crucial for support and development.

“If the youth have nowhere else to go guess where they end up? They end up on the streets increasing their vulnerability instead of being held in a safe space.”

There are fees being charged at the Youth Centre, said city chief financial officer Colin McClure, but they are not new fees.

“If you are a user of the skate park portion of the youth centre, which are the majority of the uses, they have always paid a drop in fee,” he said.  

“However, what has changed is where users could come in and use the other facility options like air hockey, pool, ping pong, art or music room, or just sit on the couches and use the free Wi-Fi, (they) are now expected to pay a user fee.”

There are a few reasons for the move this fall, said McClure, including the city gaining more control over how people enter the facility, requiring them to sign in.

“So, for safety and data collection we would be able to track who is in the building and have a handle on the number of users we get on the different days which will help us ensure we have enough staff on the floor,” he said.

Under the new prices at the centre, a drop-in visit costs $2 (under 12) and $3 for those 12 to 24 years old. There is also a fee of $5 for people over 25. In addition there is a monthly pass option of $15.

Although the online petition says it has 2,150 names, it likely won’t prompt city council to step in and repeal the fee rate change, said current youth centre manager Alanna Carmichael.

“As the information in the petition was misleading and inaccurate, coupled with the fee and payment options being mostly beneficial to the majority of the users of the youth centre, I think it is unlikely that the petition would sway council to make a change to what has been implemented,” she said.

“It is not lost on us that there is a change to some of the users who just wanted to play ping pong or pool, but we believe that having a small fee to use the facility is reasonable.”

McClure said part of the wording of the petition speaks to having fees being a hardship on marginalized youth. He iterated that the youth centre is for all youth and the city has always endeavoured, and will continue, to ensure those that do not have the means to pay fees are welcome.

There is also a work exchange program for youth who want to do a little work in lieu of paying a fee, or cannot pay the fee for one reason or another.

“We have options to assist them in using the facility in a discreet manner that respects their dignity and privacy,” McClure said.

Carmichael agreed. She felt a fee was a way for young people to feel that they are contributing to the centre.

“Every penny generated by the youth centre goes back into providing services and programming,” she said. “An equal fee structure gives the centre the ability to provide a little more support to the kids who are really in need.”

She said the fees the centre will be charging allow them to provide shower passes, personal care packages, clothing vouchers to thrift stores and access to free groceries for those youth that have no home to go to, no food and are dirty and hungry.

“We constantly exceed our mandate by providing referral services and connecting youth to the service providers and organizations that can best support them,” she said.

The petition can be found at:

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