Stirring up Change in the Community

Friday, June 29, 2007

On June 15th, Change Now youth shelter was permanently closed. In the past two weeks there has been much going on regarding the shelter's sudden closure. With no definitive word as to why the shelter was closed the community has decided rather than harping on the past the productive course of action is to look at the present and into the future.

On Tuesday June 26th there was a meeting at the Matrix Building in Downtown Guelph. At this meeting the greater community was updated on the status of all things Change Now related. The sense of urgency and need for responsibility that charged through Guelph on the 15th still exists. Work is being done along two routes. The first is looking to establish a new youth shelter with the United Way. The second route is being undertaken by the former staff and various volunteers to fill the void until a new shelter can open.

Currently, the United Way is spearheading a task force that aims at creating a new board and a new shelter that hopefully will open in September. In the mean time the youth that used Change Now are in need of very real assistance. The United Way has hired a triage worker, someone the youth can go to when they need assistance, with downtown office hours. Also, the Nurse-Practitioner that held office hours at Change Now will be available to youth once she returns from holiday. She will be able to provide medical assistance to the youth even without a health card.

However, as impressive as these efforts are, the work being done by the former staff and by volunteers is inspiring. Meals are being cooked for free by volunteers using donated food so that the youth have something to eat. Clothing and toiletry donations are being directed downtown to provide the basic needs that were once provided by Change Now. Each step of the way the youth are fully involved. There is a youth committee and there will be youth representation on the task force that will create a new shelter.

The assistance to the youth is spreading exponentially. The Cornerstone Cafe, Nighthawk Tattoo, and Fresh Start among others have begun collecting money and materials for those left behind by Change Now's closure. Donation bins are/have been placed in front of the CSA office on the second floor of the UC and in the Grad Lounge on the fifth floor at the university. The two Canadian Union of Public Employees locals on campus (CUPE 1334 and 3913) have provided financial assistance. The CSA foodbank has expressed its desire to provide perishable food and clothing. Lastly, the Communications Electrical and Paperworkers union which represented the workers at Change Now has called on other locals for donations to support the laid off workers that are voluntarily organizing for the youth. The impact of Change Now's closure, is national.

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