An Edmonton centre for queer and trans at-risk youth is asking for public donations, after it lost its provincial funding just two days after it held its grand opening in March.
The OUTpost facility held its grand opening on March 10. It was opened as part of the CHEW (community, health, empowerment and wellness) Project, which describes itself as a community-based initiative that offers “front-line service provision, resources and education for LGBTQ2SA+ youth and young adults facing barriers.”
However, on March 11, a statement from CHEW said the organization had been informed its funding was being cut as part of sweeping changes implemented by the UCP in its first provincial budget.
“We received the news that it is ‘unlikely’ that our grant application through Children’s Services will be renewed and that we should prepare for our funding to end on March 30, the end of the fiscal year,” the statement said.
“To date, this grant has provided us with the essential core funding required to provide our services.”
Since then, the group has fundraised to keep the OUTpost facility running.
“Most of the youth at the OUTpost are homeless, they’re street youth, between the ages of 14 to 29. Who don’t really have a home,” Neil Salsbury, an executive committee member at the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, said.
“So the OUTpost is essentially that for them. They can get a bite to eat, they can have a shower, they can do laundry,” he said. “They can get help, counselling, and all of those things.”
Salsbury said that while the group has been able to sustain itself on donations alone since March, the group is hoping that people in the city donate in honour of Pride month.
“Edmonton has really stepped up, but there is more required unfortunately. So we are still asking for donations,” he said. “Pride is all about community and showing your support for the community. There’s no parades, there’s no big parties this year, there’s no galas.
“Maybe the money that people are going to spend on going out, maybe that could go directly to ensuring that our youth do have a safe space.
“These are the most vulnerable youth in Edmonton… these are the youth that need us the most.”
Salsbury said that the centre has seen an increase in demand amid COVID-19 as well.
“We’ve seen numbers spike, we’ve seen youth be in more distress,” he said. “More than ever, we really are vital for them.”
Currently, the OUTpost centre regularly services about 120 young people in the Edmonton area.
The June fundraiser for OUTpost is behind its fundraising goal; it had hoped to raise $225,000 over the month of June but so far has reached just under $10,000.
Another way to help is to participate in the virtual Mayor’s Pride Brunch on Saturday, June 27. Tickets for that event can be purchased online, and will include a pickup brunch made by chefs at The Next Act Pub and a beverage.
Proceeds from the virtual brunch will support CHEW, OUTpost and Camp fYrefly.
–With files from Jennifer Crosby and Phil Heidenreich, Global News