Catholic Family Services expands youth services in Simcoe County with $200,000 grant

'The youth drop-ins really came from us listening to the youth voice and helping support them and navigate what they need'

Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County (CFS) has expanded its youth services on the back of a $200,000 grant.

Two-year funding was provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation last summer and has been used towards a drop-in program that offers youth a safe space to gather, make social connections, and access supports.

CFS has been providing youth between the ages of 12-17 with weekly drop-ins in Barrie, Orillia, Bradford, and Collingwood.

On Wednesday, officials from CFS, along with Doug Downey, Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP, announced the funding at the 20 Anne Street South location, where the drop-in will be offered at their newly renovated program room.

Funds from the grant are also being used to help with staffing and administrative costs.

Amanda Fellows, Community Program Manager at CFS, told Barrie 360 that a drop-in service was wanted after years of the pandemic.

“Youth were asking for it,” Fellows said. “What we continue to hear, as the world continues to open up, is the need for people to connect in person again. The youth drop-ins really came from us listening to the youth voice and helping support them and navigate what they need.”

The program is a free, inclusive addition to the YouthCALL program – a free helpline aiding young people aged 12-28 across the county with addiction services, mental health counselling, housing, employment, finances, and primary care. The live-answer helpline is staffed by trained youth workers Monday to Friday.

She noted that YouthCALL has evolved within CFS.

“Youth can get one-on-one support by calling in or by meeting with somebody in person at any of the drop-ins across the county,” Fellows said. “We served 109 in the month of April and that number has continued to get bigger and bigger and bigger. So really, it’s about trying to stabilize what we’ve currently built.”

With the geographical size of Simcoe County being a challenge to accommodate the varying people in each area, Fellows added that CFS is analyzing how they structure their programs.

“You want to ensure that whatever you’re offering in Barrie is also offered in Collingwood, is also offered in Wasaga Beach,” said Fellows. “Part of our quest is to be able to provide equitable service across the region, including places that are more rural or where youth may have more barriers to accessing service.” 

Visit the CFS website for more information about their programs.

Banner image – Anthony Teolis – Barrie 360