NORTHERN PENINSULA AND SOUTHERN LABRADOR, NL – Following up on meetings last September in St. Anthony, Flower’s Cove and Forteau, Choices for Youth’s (CFY) coordinator says the organization sees several potential possibilities for the region.
Joshua Smee, CFY provincial expansion coordinator, says one thing is clearly needed for youth in this area – affordable housing.
“There’s not a lot of housing options for young people, up this way particularly,” said Smee.
CFY is a non-profit, charitable, community-based agency in St. John’s that provides housing and support to at-risk youth.
Smee says CFY is interested in finding properties that could be adapted for youth housing in the area and determining how they could be run and staffed.
If a project like this did go ahead, CFY may be interested in tying in some of its youth employment initiatives as well.
“We have a construction firm here [in St. John’s] that’s doing quite well,” Smee said. “We’re thinking about our social enterprises business right now, and what ones could work outside of St. John’s.
“Wherever it’s possible for us to engage young people in this kind of work – that’s always better.”
With the Dr. Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital and a College of the North Atlantic campus that can attract young health care workers and students, Smee agrees St. Anthony may be an ideal location to set up a housing project.
In its “We Are Ready” report, CFY also documented potential for agriculture development and ways to deal with the Northern Peninsula and Labrador Straits’ aging population.
“A big part of that demographic issue for programs like ours is to make it easier for young people to stay in their communities when they feel they may not be able to,” said Smee.
During their presentations throughout the region, Smee says one thing CFY staff were particularly impressed with is the sense of community and connection to the land that thrives amongst Northern Peninsula and Labrador Straits youth.
“It was amazing how connected people were with being home, getting out in the woods and getting out in boat,” he said. “These close community connections really came through when we talked to people in the area.”
Smee says issues with drugs appeared not as prominent as in other rural regions they visited.
One other issue common to this area is the need for better transportation for the many young people that leave their Northern Peninsula communities to attend school in St. John’s. Smee says CFY is investigating ways to make that transition easier for students.
All these initiatives are only at the potential stage. Smee and CFY are now working to determine six regions where they can expand he program’s operations over the next three years.
A public presentation to solidify future plans is expected to go ahead this June.
Any groups in the region that wish to partner with CFY can contact staff at their St. John’s headquarters.
“Right now, we’re trying to get a sense of who’s available, who’s interested in partnering and where it makes the most sense to go,” said Smee. “I think we now have a better handle on where our next expansion sites will.”