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The Wrist: July 8, 2024

The Wrist: July 8, 2024
The Wrist: July 8, 2024

The CHEW project‘s partnership with Boyle Street Community Services And Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS) has helped to weather the storm, extending its hours and is now even considering opening a location in Calgary.

Taproot said there was a “perfect storm of factors” beginning in April, including new mandates for the number of staff members working all day, and forcing the Community Health Empowerment & Wellness Project, or CHEW, to limit its hours for the queer youth it serves to just two days a week.

In response, CHEW partnered with Boyle and YESS, with Boyle taking over the day-to-day operations and YESS, an organization that works with vulnerable youth, providing training to CHEW staff.

Taproot spoke with CHEW three months into the new partnership. Glynnis Lieb, executive director of the Fyrefly Institute for Gender and Sexual Diversity at the University of Albertawhich oversees CHEW, said the organization is now open three days a week and is in the process of hiring two new employees so they can expand their open days to five days a week. “That’s largely due to our new partnership with Boyle and YESS,” Lieb said. “Boyle has assigned one of their shelter managers to oversee the floor at CHEW, and YESS has provided specialized training.”

The partnership has also led to better care for the youth who access the service, Lieb said. “(There’s) cross-pollination between shelters and of course, because Boyle has multiple different specialized locations and supports, they can refer youth who are a good fit for our program and vice versa … It’s been so helpful to be able to share those resources and knowledge, and they do an absolutely fantastic job running the floor service.”

The Fyrefly Institute has also received funding through a Calgary charity to set up a CHEW chapter in that city. “We want to replicate the model that we’ve set up here with Boyle and YESS and work with a community organization in Calgary to do the same thing,” Lieb said.

Although the Fyrefly Institute is based in Edmonton, it also has a presence in southern Alberta. The institute started Camp fYrefly, a summer camp for 2SLGBTQ+ youth, in Edmonton in 2004 and the camp has now expanded to Kananaskis, Alberta, and locations in Saskatchewan and Ontario.

A social service that expands instead of shrinks goes against the current trend. Loud Saint Alberta support service for queer youth, ceased its activities in May. The Bissell Center And Jasper Place Wellness Center Both had to adjust their services after city funding dried up — Bissell in March and Jasper Place last August. “It feels really good to not just talk about the issues, but to actually do something,” Lieb said. “That’s the biggest thing, because we spend a lot of time talking about how people are struggling.”

Boyle Street Community Services, meanwhile, has had its second development permit revoked for a health center it’s trying to build in Ritchie at 10119 81 Avenue NW. The zoning and development commission said the property lacks natural oversight that would prevent crime. The co-hosts of Speaking Municipally, Taproot’s civic affairs podcast, discussed the commission’s decision on episode 267.

Photo: The Fyrefly Institute oversees the CHEW Project, a centre for vulnerable 2SLGBTQ+ youth. (University of Alberta)