FOR THE GAZETTE
Further discussion was expected to take place during Council’s Dec. 10 budget meeting regarding the ask for $100,000 to support the PEC youth centre its operations, programs and services for 2021.
Alison Kelly, Administrative and Communications Officer for the ROC, provided an annual overview to Council as the ROC (Rural Outreach Centre) celebrates its 20th year of serving youth in Prince Edward County.
“Our mission remains the same to provide opportunities, mentorship and programs that foster strong, personal and social development for all youth in Prince Edward County,” Kelly explained. “This past year, ROC registered 400 youth members, which is an increase of 30 per cent from the previous year.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, 100 new members registered for services as a result of the Neighbourhood Outreach Response project. The ROC recorded over 9,600 youth visits to the centre between September 2019 and December 2020. ROC also saw a record year providing 620 free cab rides home for youth across the County from Consecon to Long Point, she said. Of the 12 programs offered, three new programs were introduced and had high success rates during the pandemic, Kelly continued.
Six community youth have accessed the Youth Justice Service, which was launched to assist youth who are in trouble with the law, she explained, from supervising court mandated volunteer hours and navigating their probation, to supporting youth and their families through the court process. The same number of youth registered in the Youth Support Navigation service, which provides one-on-one support for youth who are physically not in school – whether they are in home school, virtual school or have dropped out, Kelly went on. Since September, ROC staff have worked with 6 youth to re-enroll in school.
“As the organization grows and responds to community needs,” she said, “the focus is clear: long-lasting, supportive relationship help transition youth to successful adulthood and a meaningful future that they have chosen.” During COVID-19, ROC staff have seen an increase in youth reported challenges, she noted, including difficulties with academics, conflict with the law, self-harm behaviour, suicidal thoughts, sexual health, family conflict, mental health, abuse in the home, substance abuse, experiencing homelessness and food insecurity. Despite these challenges, 30 members graduated from high school in June. The County Care Kits program, which ran January to April, expanded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From May to December, the Neighbourhood Outreach Response program allowed youth and ROC staff to deliver over 1,250 food and hygiene kits across the County, over 900 frozen meals as well as laptops, cell phones, art and education supplies to youth. ROC staff will be sending the projected 2021 revenue and budget expectations for the youth centre to staff for further discussion.