It’s Friday night at The Salvation Army’s youth drop-in program in Weston, a community in Winnipeg’s north end. Girls are weaving rubber bands into bracelets. Boys are playing board games. There is laughter and high fives, yet many of these youth have little hope for the future.
Historically the neighbourhood was nicknamed "CPR Town" due to the large number of railway workers who resided there. As the number of jobs at the Weston Shops declined, so did the neighbourhood.
“Participants come from struggling families and unstable family units,” says Lieutenant Tina Phanthaamath, Church Pastor. “The Salvation Army is giving hope in a neighbourhood known for poverty, broken homes and violence.”
The drop-in is recognized as a safe place to ‘hang out’ where at-risk youth learn life skills, meet new friends and have opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise get.
“I’ve never been to a trampoline park,” says one participant. “This is my first smoothie,” says another. “I learned that swapping a tortilla wrap for a bun is healthier for me,” says another.
The goal of the drop-in is to provide information, resources and socialization to encourage and give youth the tools they need to keep them off the streets and succeed on life’s journey.
“There are too many kids who have no direction or vision for their future,” says Phanthaamath. “The Salvation Army provides a safe, supportive place where children and youth can connect with mentors, build positive relationships, experience new opportunities and develop confidence and skills for life.”