Huddle Youth Services Center opens downtown location



A new space designed to provide physical, mental and spiritual care to youth has officially opened in downtown Brandon.

Brandon’s Huddle space is one of five that opened on Wednesday, with three in Winnipeg and one in Selkirk. Another, Huddle NorWest in Winnipeg, has been open since 2017.



KAREN MCKINLEY/THE BRANDON SUN

Several young councilors and guests who attended the official opening of Huddle in downtown Brandon gathered outside to cheer on the unveiling of the Youth Mental Health and Social Work sign on Wednesday. Among them were Reg Helwer, MPP for Brandon West; Len Isleifson, MPP for Brandon East; Sarah Guillemard, Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness; Dwayne Dyck, executive director of Westman Youth for Christ; Sachi Villanueva, City of Brandon Youth Advisory Council; Economic Development, Investment and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen and Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest.

In March 2021, the Manitoba government invested $1.92 million for the creation of the five Huddle sites to expand integrated services for youth in the province. Charities led by United Way in Winnipeg have agreed to invest an additional $3.41 million over three years. The exact amount for Huddle Brandon was not available at press time.

Created in partnership with young people, it is more than a social service site. Huddle Brandon is a community space where young people can find comprehensive, non-judgmental help, said Dwayne Dyck, executive director of Westman Youth For Christ, one of the agencies involved with Huddle Brandon.

This initiative not only facilitates access to mental health care, but creates a safe space for young people seeking help. There had been a soft opening to connect people to services, and now they are eager to spread the word.

There’s been a real need for a space like Huddle for years, Dyck said. Organizations have difficulty offering comprehensive services to young people.

Dyck recalled Westman Youth for Christ and several other stakeholders, including Prairie Mountain Health and the City of Brandon, had a virtual meeting to talk about an integrated service site and found they could apply to have one, but they had very little time.

“We heard about it and thought it was great, but then found out we had a week to file the application,” Dyck said. “Everyone involved pulled together to get everything we needed, and it shows how badly we need it.”

Having a location in downtown Brandon has its advantages, like being visible and central, but there are some downsides to being downtown like accessibility for young people who don’t live downtown, Dyck said. . The important thing for him, however, is that the organization is open to all young people.

Having multiple Huddle locations shows that it’s okay for young people to want to ask for help with their challenges, said Sachi Villanueva, a member of the city’s Youth Advisory Council. Having one place to get multiple related services in the city will make finding help less overwhelming for those looking for help.

“Involving young people in decision-making is crucial, and the creation of Huddle ensures that there are ways to provide accessible mental health for young people who have struggled to get support on their journey,” she said. “I believe it is built on a solid foundation of trust with the best interests of young people in mind.”

She said Huddle’s team includes a wide range of ages and gender identities so they can relate to a variety of people seeking help and fill the gaps for underrepresented groups. .

The provincial government is aware of the growing need and gaps in services for young people, said Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness, Sarah Guillemard.

“We are here to celebrate the work being done at these sites to support the mental health and well-being of young adults in this province,” Guillemard said. “They give hope to all who are struggling.”

It’s not just about accessing formal services, but connecting with someone who understands their plight as a young peer who has gone through similar experiences.

A service like this would have been great to have when she was a teenager, Guillemard said. Services were available in pockets through churches or community gatherings, but one had to travel between them to get needed care.

In many cases, individual groups want to help but may not have the expertise. At Huddle, everyone is immediately connected to all aspects of care.

“It fills a need that’s been around for years and we’ll only see it grow,” she said.

To learn more about Huddle, visit huddlemanitoba.ca/.

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