After upper-tier government grants fell through the local community dug in and found the money to keep The Hub open – at least for now.
With any luck, more donations and possibly a grant will cement the future of the fledgling youth drop-in centre, says Carrie McEachran, executive director of Rebound Sarnia-Lambton, which operates The Hub.
“It’s been a little stressful,” she said, about the past six months.
In January, it became obvious The Hub would run out of funding and administration was forced to make a public appeal for help.
Luckily, The Hub’s value to young people in Sarnia has become apparent. Businesses and individuals have been very generous, McEachran said.
Notably, Enbridge Gas stepped up with $10,000, Lambton County council agreed to provide $75,000, and the recent McHappy Day at local McDonald’s restaurants raised more than $24,000.
“At this point, $174,000 has been donated to The Hub,” said McEachran. “But if we want to make it to (the end of the fiscal year) March 31, we need another $46,000.”
She estimates it costs $220,000 a year to keep The Hub operating, and that’s with slightly abbreviated hours.
The Hub’s parent organization, Rebound Sarnia-Lambton, continues to work on an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant that may provide annual funding.
“Without sustainable funding, we’re going to have to keep piecemealing it like this, and we don’t want to do that,” said McEachran.
The Hub hasn’t been around long.
It was established in February 2017 at St. Luke’s United Church on the corner of Indian and Wellington roads. Less than a year later, it was in financial trouble.
From the beginning, The Hub was meant to help at-risk youth, to keep them off the streets and give them help with everything from addiction to life skills.
“We’re so much more than a drop-in centre,” said McEachran. “Sarnia doesn’t realize this city has a problem with youth not having housing.”
To help those aged 16-24 living on the street, surfing from couch to couch, The Hub provides one hot meal a day, clothing, a food bank, even a hot shower.
Probably most importantly, The Hub is affiliated with 34 other social agencies like St. Clair Child & Youth, and the CAS. Referrals are made. Counselling is possible. Hope is offered.
“They learn the skills they need to get a job or go to school. It’s about having a safe place,” said McEachran. “It’s where they have someone they can trust.”
An average of 25 to 35 youth a day visit The Hub between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
They find camaraderie and support. One young woman, who has gone to The Hub since it opened, described it as her second family.
The youth who frequent The Hub and hang around outside its doors until it opens, value it so much some of them have formed a committee to raise funds.
Committee members hold bake sales and are considering a social enterprise, like a shop, they can operate to support the place they love.
“They say they don’t know where they will go if we close,” said McEachran.
A TYPICAL MONTH (APRIL 2018)
The Hub provided:
* 525 youth visits;
* over 500 meals;
* 25 used laundry services;
* 21 took a shower;
* 133 used the emergency food bank;
* 43 accessed outside services like The Haven, Goodwill, CLAS and Sarnia Police.