Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa

Honourable senators, it is my pleasure today to highlight that this year, 2010, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa. Since it was founded in 1960, the agency has assumed a crucial role in this city, helping youth and their families resolve a wide range of serious problems. I am honoured to be a member of the YSB’s team and to be part of its long-standing tradition of reaching out to youth with the assistance they need.

Honourable senators, I am talking about young people struggling with issues that could well change the course of their lives: kids with mental health issues, kids who are homeless and unemployed, kids in trouble with the law. These issues are tough, complicated and far too weighty for anyone to confront alone. This is where YSB comes in, offering mental health support, shelter, employment programs and guidance on our legal system. Each service is composed of an array of relevant and innovative activities.

Under its youth justice services, for example, the agency works with community partners to help young people facing criminal charges turn their lives around. In cases where mental illness is the cause of criminal behaviour, the Ottawa Youth Services Bureau will hook up young people and their families with the appropriate community health services and information.

Through its residential facilities and outreach activities, the agency also delivers training and counsel on real life matters, such as vocation and education options, drugs, dispute resolution and anger management.

YSB is funded by the Province of Ontario, the City of Ottawa, the United Way and other donors. With 20 sites located in Ottawa, it serves between 2,500 and 3,000 youth and their families every month. Thanks to YSB, young people who might otherwise be stifled by hardship or finding jobs are succeeding in school and making positive decisions about their health and well-being.

This evening, I will be attending a fundraising event called “One Big Party” for current and former staff, volunteers and board members. We are trying to raise $750,000 by the end of the fiscal year. It is also a chance to just celebrate the people behind the YSB’s extraordinary work. Once that party ends tonight, where Jim Cuddy will play, the work will continue, as will the need for support from government, businesses and individuals.

I invite honourable senators to look into YSB and consider whether it might be the type of agency they would like to get behind. I can remind them, in the few seconds I have left, that when they walk off the Hill, appreciating being who we are and what we do, within the shadows of Parliament there are young people in this city who are not sleeping in comfort but are sleeping on the street. These are the people we should be caring about. Honourable senators can be sure that whatever help they can give will be put to good use.