Improving lives of youth is Job 1 at participatory budget meeting

A program aimed at preventing youth homelessness was this year’s top vote-getter in the City of Victoria’s participatory budgeting process.

It’s the second time residents have been given a chance to divvy up some of the city’s budget and decide which projects they want to support.

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The theme this year was improving the lives of youth and nearly 5,000 people voted for projects on a short list of 16.

In the end, a total of five projects shared $55,000.

The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness will get half of that to deliver a three-point plan aimed at helping at-risk and homeless youth.

“It’s so incredibly exciting to know that the community actually cares about what youth experiencing homelessness want and need,” said Emily Jackson, the coalition’s prevention of youth homelessness co-ordinator.

“I think oftentimes youth feel like they’re kind of forgotten. This is the perfect reminder that the community cares. They voted for you. They want you to thrive. They want this to work. So I was just jumping up and down when I got this.”

The proposal, which was submitted after extensive discussions with youth who have experienced homelessness, calls for a weekly cooking group and a monthly forum to educate youth on topics of their choosing.

In the case of education forums, youth who have experienced homelessness will be the ones planning and delivering the training.

Finally, a number of youth will be trained to deliver a tenancy program so that young renters know their rights and responsibilities as well as how to budget, take care of a home and deal with landlords and neighbors.

“It’s a peer-to-peer version of the Ready to Rent course, where youth will be trained, certified and then they will deliver the course to youth,” Jackson said.

Victoria Youth Council member Emma-Jane Burian, who sat on the participatory budgeting steering committee, said the proposal by Jackson’s group clearly resonated with voters.

“I think that people in our community are really in touch with the housing crisis that we have, and the affordability challenges that many people in Victoria and Greater Victoria face,” she said.

“So I think that was really a personal connection for people.”

Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow, liaison to the youth council, said participatory budgeting is a good way to improve transparency and involve the community in decision-making.

“I would like to see more of this,” he said. “This is [what] government should be like.”

The other projects that will receive money include:

• Pollinator Partnership Canada — $18,000 for a program in which 20 youths ages 16 to 24 will be mentored by scientists and then take the lead on assessing pollinator populations.

• Foundry Victoria — $6,450 to deliver Unquiet Minds II, a music and poetry event for youth mental-health awareness.

• James Bay Community Project — $2,400 to run a six-week Nobody’s Perfect Parenting program for parents under 21.

• Quadra Village Community Centre — $500 to stage the Quadra Village Has Talent show, where local youth can showcase their skills.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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