Imagine U

Project title: Imagine U

Participatory Budgeting funding request: $25,000

Organization/Individual: Imagine Studio Café

Location: James Bay

What is your project?

Imagine cafe has been running for over three years with the mandate of providing at-risk youth with safe, inclusive, and stable employment. Over the years we have welcomed street-entrenched youth, individuals battling addictions and severe mental health challenges, and youth involved in the drug and sex trades. While working from a harm-reduction model, we have been able to offer individual case management while providing vital life skills as well as transferable employment skills. The Imagine U program proposal will provide the training and employment opportunities to an additional 6 youth over a six month period. Over this period, interns will gain transferable employment skills such as hospitality, business management, accounting, barista, and cooking.

How does your project benefit the lives of youth in Victoria?

A 2016 survey of the homeless population in Greater Victoria found that not only were 1 in 5 surveyees under the age of 30, but that 57% had first become homeless before the age of 29 (Albert, 2016). The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has reported that 60% of all illicit drug users in Canada are in fact youth between the ages of 15 and 24, while the Canadian Mental Health Association has noted that approximately 10-20% of all youth are battling some form of mental illness. These statistics are only a glimpse into the harsh realities that today’s youth are facing. Many of these youth have experienced severe trauma in their lives, and often lack consistent and appropriate support systems, significantly decreasing their likelihood of being able to secure stable employment and housing.

Because of these enormous barriers, vulnerable youth are often not able to secure regular, legal employment, and as a result often turn to informal, under the table, illegal, or dangerous jobs such as the sex-trade, panhandling, squeeging, binning, theft, and the drug trade, all of which put them further at risk of experiencing severe physical and emotional harm. Without the adequate intervention, emotional support and financial security that Imagine U can offer, these youth are given little to no opportunity to better their lives, combat their addictions and seek treatment for their mental health.

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