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Financial woes dog youth centre
Services need to be a priority, says outgoing executive director

Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Thursday, May 21, 2015

After months of efforts at fundraising, the Inuvik Youth Centre remains financially troubled and in need of more assistance.

NNSL photo/graphic

The Inuvik Youth Centre continues to face a financial crunch, said its current executive director, who plans on leaving the position when her contract expires at the end of June. - Shawn Giilck/NNSL photo

Renee Theoret, who is finishing her one-year contract as executive director of the centre at the end of June, spoke at some length about the problems facing the facility May 14.

She said she won't be returning to the centre for another term and instead is helping to co-ordinate the search for another executive director. That person will be the fifth executive director to manage the centre since January 2013.

"The biggest challenge is that it's not sustainable," she explained. "We have no guaranteed funding and the staff focuses on securing funding instead of developing programs.

"This is what I see. There are 15 to 20 kids knocking on the doors every day to come hang out and participate in programs and our doors are closed because the only thing I am doing is to trying to secure funding."

She noted the declining economy in town as a contributing factor to the problem. As people and organizations cut back on their spending, something has to give, but she questioned the rationale of not assisting the centre.

"The Inuvik Youth Centre provides critical programs, resources, and community space to the many youth in our Arctic community," Theoret said. "With dwindling support from natural resource development companies who are no longer working in the area, the centre has seen a steep decline in ongoing core funding.

"I am disappointed to see so many who want to get involved and no sustainable money. Especially when free options for youth are so limited in Inuvik."

Theoret said everyone in Inuvik from individuals to organizations and businesses need to understand and appreciate the important role the youth centre plays in town, and that means opening their wallets to help out.

"We need the community to step up and realize that the youth centre benefits the whole community. We're building future leaders. There's lots of money going through this town," she said. "The money can be found. It comes down to what the town and local businesses consider a priority.

"In my opinion, children and youth should be on the top list with other main priorities. Core funding is hard to find and the money we think we're saving will be spent in vandalism and crimes around town because children and youth are bored and don't have a safe youth centre to go to and access programming."

Melanie Adams, one of the members of the centre's board directors, had a less gloomy perspective on the facility.

She doesn't think the situation at the centre is much different than that facing other non-profit organizations in town. Funding is an ongoing problem with any non-profit, she added.

She pointed to the slow economy of Inuvik and the rising cost of utilities, particularly the synthetic natural gas being substituted for natural gas from the Ikhil field, as a crucial factor that's making it more difficult to keep the centre open.

She said she thinks the centre does receive a lot of support from the Town of Inuvik as well as residents and businesses in general.

Adams was also reluctant to link the funding challenges with the high staff turnover. She repeated she feels that's not uncommon amongst non-profits.

The centre needs about $18,000 to $20,000 a month to stay open with adequate programming, Theoret said, but the funding that's currently received doesn't come close to that.

"Only around $25,000 is guaranteed funding every year," Theoret said. "From the bingos and from the MACA Youth Centre initiative we receive around $14,000."

The centre is hovering on the brink of having to make the tough decision to either reduce its hours or close down outright during part of the week if more funding isn't found, Theoret said.

"Young people in our community often have a difficult time," Theoret said. "And receiving support at critical junctures can mean the difference between succeeding and struggling. A number of the youth we assist are struggling with mental health issues and are considered at-risk or vulnerable.

"The Inuvik Youth Centre needs your help to keep their doors open with their qualified and talented staff who provide an essential service to the young people of Inuvik. Our deserving organization needs financial support, to continue meeting the needs of the youth of Inuvik," she said.

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