Brittney Pare was living on the street.
Struggling with an addiction to crystal meth at 19, she spent her nights sleeping in Beacon Hill Park or on the streets, struggling to find her way.
Six years later, she holds a steady job as a road traffic controller. Pare said the turnaround she has achieved has been a direct result of her time working with the Pathway Project.
“They are great. I just found out that they are closing and I think it’s stupid,” she said during a farewell barbecue Monday for the program. “I did drugs for a lot of years and then I came here and they helped me … I got my first job at the KFC down the road thanks to them.”
Years after graduating out of the youth employment initiative, Pare was back to support the program that supported her.
Seeing Pathway forced to close its doors after 13 years due to federal funding cuts is a bitter pill, she said.
“I feel sad. There is so many youth that need it and I am at a loss for words. I am sad to see Randy (Waldie) and Jen (Harrison) not doing this, I know they love it and I know it helps everybody.”
Pare is not the only success story Pathway helped write.
Terrance Guignard, also there to say goodbye to a program he graduated from two years ago, said the people there helped change his path in life.
“When I came into this program, I came in with one mindset and one mindset alone. Being a typical young person it was my way or the highway,” he said. “This program made me see beyond myself. Most people have joined this program with insecurities. You build friendships and bonds and you become a better you.”
Provincial NDP leader John Horgan said he knows that feeling, having gone through a period in his life when he wasn’t sure what the future would hold. He, too, struggled to find his path as a teenager.
“I was just like them, I was failing out of high school, I didn’t see a future for myself in any way, shape or form to do with school, but someone turned the tables for me,” he said. “The fact that so many kids have come back today to say goodbye and thank (them) speaks to the importance that they have had to these young people’s lives. That is priceless to me and that the federal government would step away is a real tragedy and shortsighted.”
Horgan plans to have a conversation with Shirley Bond, B.C. Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, about the fate of the Pathway Project. He hopes the province can step up in this case to help revive the program in some manner and get it duplicated in other communities. The cuts are not only shuttering a successful program, he said, for some they are taking away hope.
“We are closing the door on a program that gave kids in the West Shore and right across Victoria hope when they felt hopeless and that is the real tragedy here. That is a pretty important thing to have when you think all is lost.”
Former program co-ordinator Jen Harrison couldn’t agree more.
“All these youth walked in here saying ‘all I need is a job’ and a job was the end result. But there was so much work that needed to be done before,” she said. “There were lots and lots of super challenging times here, but overall it was so worth the investment. I’m so afraid that the message that gets out is it was not worth the investment.”
After 49 groups and hundreds of youth served over 13 years, Pathway is now closed.
“There has been so much success and those walls have so many stories,” Harrison said. “(But) there will be no group 50. I don’t know how to say goodbye to this place. I don’t want to say goodbye to this place.”