Better late than never.
The Pathway Project youth employment agency shut its doors in late July after its federal contract expired, amid fears it was closing for good.
Three nerve-wracking weeks later, the Langford-based program has new money and a three-year contract, allowing the West Shore’s only youth employment service to get back in action.
“All the support from the community, colleagues and partners made it possible to open our doors again,” said Jen Harrison, the Pathway co-ordinator. “We were able to prove there is a need for this place in the community.”
Run through WorkLink for the past 10 years, Pathway helps West Shore teens and young adults sharpen their employment skills through an intensive and free 16-week program. Many of Pathway’s clients struggle with addictions, mental health issues, poverty, and emotional or physical abuse.
Hundreds of graduated clients remain extremely loyal to the program and many helped launch a lobbying effort in July and August. Clients, their parents and people in the community wrote emails and called Service Canada and provincial and federal politicians to highlight what could be lost.
“Youth were a big part, they rallied to keep the doors open,” Harrison said, who runs the program with Randy Waldie. “I can’t imagine the community without this. I don’t know where the youth would go.”
Harrison and Waldie were laid off for three weeks, but Pathways has retained its classroom space at 847 Goldstream Ave., behind the Tim Hortons. They said gap in service meant some youth may have been discouraged from finding help.
“The youth tell each other about this by old fashioned word of mouth,” she said. “But they won’t refer if they can’t rely on us being here.”
WorkLink executive director Jennifer DeLuca said it’s unclear why funding was delayed, but a three year contract from Service Canada is about as good as it gets. In the past Pathway has seen contracts from six months to two years.
“Three years is such a bonus. We are really happy about that,” DeLuca said. “It’s hard to imagine such a great program not being funded again.”
DeLuca said in 20 years working in social services, she’s almost never seen such a long delay between contracts for a long-running agency that demonstrates measurable success.
“They may have looked at our (job skills) program to see if it was worth being funded. Governments do that,” DeLuca said. “I just wish they’d done it before the end of the contract.”
“We had support from past participants, from the community and parents, and support locally from Service Canada,” she added. “They believe in this project, but when you send something to Ottawa, you have to wait.”