A one-stop shop for health and social services for youth is getting a one-time cash injection from a philanthropic foundation with the aim of seeing the project to completion.
Until May 31, the Robert L. Conconi Foundation in partnership with St. Paul’s Foundation is matching all donations up to $500,000 towards Foundry, a provincewide network of youth centres that will increase access for young people seeking mental health and a variety of other youth-focused services.
The Foundry North Shore branch had an official launch announcement in February, alongside other centres that are slated to open in Kelowna, Prince George and Abbotsford. A facility in Campbell River opened in March.
The North Shore facility is slated to open this July in a 9,000-square-foot space at 211 West First St. in Lower Lonsdale.
“We need an environment that is youth friendly and supportive that makes them feel that no matter the problem they can overcome it and there are skilled people who can help them in that,” said Bob Conconi of the Conconi Foundation in an email response. “To us, Foundry is that solution to reduce unnecessary trauma for youth at least when it comes to their individual wellness.”
With $1 million left to raise in order to meet Foundry’s $7.5 million in startup costs, the foundation is hoping that its campaign challenge can help raise the remaining funds so that all centres can open without delay.
Vancouver Coastal Health is leading development of Foundry North Shore and has signed on several service providers, including North Shore Neighbourhood House, Parkgate Community Services Society, Capilano Community Services, the Canadian Mental Health Association and Hollyburn Family Services.
Foundry is part of a wider provincial health-care initiative that combines youth-focused services into a single storefront in order to make accessing the system less discouraging and easier to navigate for young people.
Conconi, whose private family foundation was established in 2003, said that over the last several years supporting vulnerable youth throughout the province has been an area of focus.
“We, very intentionally, immersed ourselves in this work and spent time listening to individual youth experiences. What we repeatedly heard back was that going through adult services, especially around mental health or staying at an adult hospital ward can be extremely traumatic for a young person. It sets the tone of no hope,” Conconi said.
Dr. Steve Mathias, whose work with the Granville Youth Health Centre in Vancouver played a large role in influencing the one-stop shop approach to youth services, wants Foundry to help combat the tone of “no hope” by focusing on being youth-friendly and accessible.
“Over and over again, young people have told us that they want a space where help-seeking is not stigmatized,” Mathias said in an email response. “This is what we’ve created at Granville and what we will create at Foundry North Shore.”
The North Shore was selected as a Foundry site from more than 30 municipalities across B.C. that applied.
Mathias said that construction is well underway at Foundry North Shore and he added that it will be an “absolutely stunning space.”
“We’re optimistic that over the next couple of weeks, the Conconi family’s challenge, and the community response, will help us complete our fundraising campaign for this phase,” he said.
Donations to Foundry are being doubled by the Robert L. Conconi Foundation until May 31 and can be made by visiting helpstpauls.com/supportyouth.