“In the last year, it became relevant that we need to look at mental health in youth,” the Chair of Gravenhurst Against Poverty’s (GAP) Young Adult Centre Committee Desarae Doolittle says.

She explains after GAP did a needs assessment with youth in the community it became obvious that young people in Muskoka need a space to call their own. Doolittle adds that the space needs to be a building for them to be “safe and healthy” in, not something linked to being sick. 

Since GAP was created in 2017, Doolittle says mental health support has always been a “pillar of our work.” Because of that, she says the idea of a young adult centre “slow morphed” into the project they’re working on now. 

Chair of GAP’s Steering Committee Bonnie Dart says the young adult centre will be on Sharpe Street across from the Gravenhurst Opera House. She explains it will be two floors with the main level being a community hub. It will include a multi-purpose welcoming space that “promotes community kinship and wholeness” so that people feel welcomed in it. Dart adds there will be “distinct spaces” for people to access like a community kitchen and meeting rooms. 

The lower level will house the young adult centre.

Currently, Doolittle says they have a three-month agreement with the landlord to see if the building is right for them. “We will be public once it turns from an operational agreement to an official agreement,” she adds.

Doolittle says the centre will be shaped by the needs of youth in the community, which is why a survey was recently put out by GAP looking to find out what is wanted in the centre. She explains they’re looking for people between the ages of 12 and 29 to fill it out. “What do you want it to look like? What do you want it to feel like? What needs to be there in terms of opportunities and services,” Doolittle asks.”It’s really a pull to ask more young people to be apart of the infancy of this project.”

The next phase of the project will include a mentorship program and virtual town hall meetings. “That will all happen before our building opens,” Doolittle says. 

The money to build the centre is coming through fundraisers run by GAP like the Coldest Night of the Year, grants, and individual donations. “The desire from GAP is to not just get it up and running, but how can we ensure this will be here for years to come for youth in Gravenhurst,” she says.

According to Doolittle, the plan is to open the centre by fall 2021. “Nothing is firm,” she says, noting that it all depends on getting the necessary funding and permits.