5th on 5th Youth Services has been helping young people in Lethbridge for the past 20 years, but recently, they’ve been facing a serious funding issue.
On Monday, 5th on 5th appeared in front of city council asking for $50,000 in emergency funding which they say is needed to operate fully. However, council says it’s the province’s responsibility. If the youth service doesn’t receive funding, it could mean significant cuts to staff and the services this facility provides. Reflecting on the meeting, executive director of 5th on 5th, Gail McKenzie, is remaining optimistic. “I was hoping to receive funding and advocacy, but one out of two is good.”
The presentation to City Council resulted in the city’s decision to advocate on 5th on 5th’s behalf to the provincial government for funding. Councillor Jeff Coffman says Council was very empathetic to 5th on 5th’s situation, but that the responsibility to fund programs like this falls elsewhere. “We’re very adamant that this is a responsibility and a commitment on behalf of the provincial government to fund programs like this.”
Though Council did not provide the emergency funding 5th on 5th was looking for, they agreed that the service is integral to the community. “What we’ve done is the mayor is going to write a letter to the Minister of Jobs and Skills as well as ‘cc’ our local MLA to say, ‘Look: your decision to not fund this type of service is hurting our community’,” says Councillor Rob Miyashiro, who has a background in youth services himself.
This development is a good step towards the long term sustainability of 5th on 5th, and getting the city’s support is critical in getting that provincial funding. Now the issue is how long that process will take, and whether or not 5th on 5th can hold on long enough to survive.
“I’m definitely concerned about the timeline, and I did mention that in council, that if they’re able to advocate for us this quickly then that is the best result for us,” says McKenzie. “My concern is that there’s not enough time.”
Council says the share this concern, and are making the youth centre one of their top priorities. “This has certainly become a priority for us,” says Councillor Coffman. “I know that the mayor will have a conversation with the board of 5th on 5th, draft the letter and perhaps even a phone call to the minister emphasizing the concern, emphasizing the impact this has on the community.”
After fighting for so long on behalf of this youth service, McKenzie isn’t ready to give up on it just yet. “If we’re going down, we’re going down fighting. But my hope is that we’re not going down and that the fight will be worth it in the end.”