In 2000, the building that once housed Squamish's criminals turned into a haven for 13 to 18-years-old. Designed as a safe place in a non-judgmental environment, the downtown Squamish Youth Resource Centre is celebrating its 10th anniversary with an open house next month.
A hang out spot for teens to watch a movie, play pool, use the Internet, do homework or receive assistance and support, the centre also acts as a bridge between teens and services in the community.
The outside of the building is decorated with paintings done by teens in an effort to reduce the graffiti, an initiative that has worked quite well, according to youth centre co-ordinator Renee Theoret.
The centre also offers a number of structured programs for teens such as the gardening project and the youth centre snowboard team.
"Through these programs, Squamish youth will learn new skills, enhance self esteem and problem solving skills," said Kathy Daniels, who heads the programs. "They have access to recreation and the opportunity to develop and participate in youth driven events."
Currently they are busy preparing for the upcoming Farmer's Market season by planting, growing and harvesting organic vegetables to sell.
"It's a great opportunity for them meet new people and learn how to sell products at a Farmer's Market," said Theoret.
Theoret said she tries to be prepared for any amenity teens might need. She has an emergency food bank, hygiene kits, a shower, a washer and dryer and a big second hand closet with rain gear, winter gear and interview clothes.
Theoret and Daniels appeared before the District of Squamish council on Tuesday (May 4) to thank the municipality for the last 10 years of support.
"We're not here with our hands out, we are here to say thank you so much," said Daniels. "We wanted to show you you're getting a good bang for your buck."
Theoret told council about their new newest program, the centre's snowboard team, which gives teens the chance to ski in Whistler.
"We really want to get kids who don't have the opportunity up there," said Theoret. "We have kids who've been living all their life in Squamish and they've never been up to Whistler because it's too expensive."
The centre is also looking at turning their garage into a music room where the teens could come and practice with their bands and fundraising efforts are already going ahead.
"This has been a very active year," said Daniels. "We have a different program every night, we were able to take a lot of the kids to Olympic events thanks to Vanoc and we start the snowboard team."
Daniels said 4,500 people have come through the centre this year. All the services are free except for certain more costly out trips.
Aside from some funding from Sea to Sky Community Services, Vancouver Coastal Health provides funding to supply healthy daily snacks.
"Every day at 5 p.m. teens can come for a free an healthy bite to eat and if they help prepare the food or clean up afterwards, they'll be rewarded with leisure buck points," said Theoret.
"These points can be used as money for out trips, so if we go to the PNE and it's $15 I will say they can pay $15 or 15 leisure buck points. It's a motivational system."
Yet their current situation is far from perfect.
Council expressed concerns over building maintenance.
"The building in itself is a problem," said Daniels. "We have a leak in the roof and we've spent thousands of dollars trying to fix it, but we're lucky enough to have a building."
The Squamish Youth Centre will be hosting an open house at their facility at 1135 Carson Place on June 26 to showcase their services.