Jobs could help turn around the lives of at-risk youth: Fitzgerald

Cory Hurley
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Players take part in an open basketball scrimmage at the WestRock Community Centre multipurpose room Thursday. Open basketball for Grade 10 and up is held every Monday and Thursday at the centre.

Ben Fitzgerald hopes to have a job for at least three at-risk youth this year to put them on the way to a brighter future.

The executive director at The WestRock Community Centre in Corner Brook said the $100,000 for a Newfoundland and Labrador Housing community centre summer employment program should do that. There are eight centres across the province, through which Fitzgerald expects the money will be divided.

“We have been asking for that for a number of years,” he said of the funding announced in Budget 2014 Thursday.

Fitzgerald said a lot of the youth the centre works with are not full-time students, so need such a work placement to help them build the skills they need to better their lives. If they prove themselves in such a position, it will also show other businesses and organizations they are a worthy employee.

“It hopefully gives us the opportunity to employ some youth who show promise of being re-engaged in school or work,” he said.

The province is investing about $170 million in Budget 2014 into the Poverty Reduction Strategy. There is $4.8 million designated to help the most vulnerable by raising the basic rate for people receiving income support by five per cent, with a projected amount of $32.3 million over the five subsequent years.

“It is always promising to see that,” he said. “How it is rolled out is always the concern for us. We are hoping we can get on the radar there, but the details of that will be known in the coming weeks.”

Fitzgerald said a lot of the details of budget announcements are as uncertain as the funding such a centre is able to acquire each year. The four-to-six staff members they have depend largely on government funding and projects — that without, those people do not have a job.

The executive director said that was the case last year, when funding for a program abruptly ended. He said four people were affected.

Education and health care are two main focuses of any such community centre, and Fitzgerald said he was still searching and hoping to see something they could tap into to assist in those areas.

There is an under-resourced health clinic at the centre, which is utilized a lot to help with issues such as suicide, mental health and drug addiction. He also has been lobbying for more assistance from an education perspective, as the community continues to struggle with a less than 10 per cent graduation rate.

“It would have been nice to see things in those areas,” he said.

Organizations: The WestRock Community Centre

Geographic location: Corner Brook

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