Huddle Broadway focuses on youth wellness, mental health

·3 min read

Taylor Sokolosky, 19, says visiting a West Broadway youth hub has helped her rise to face mental health challenges, including major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I've gotten a lot better just by coming here and talking...the staff are very caring, they're compassionate, they are determined to help."

Those staff, she says, have also inspired her—she now wants to pursue a career as a mental health clinician to help others.

Sokolosky was one of about 40 people gathered at the youth hub last month to celebrate the province's launch of six "Huddle" youth hubs being led by community organizations in Manitoba, including the West Broadway hub which was newly named Huddle Broadway.

Health and Community Wellness Minister Sarah Guillemard, speaking at an event hosted by the Huddle Brandon site, called the hubs a low-barrier "one-stop shop" for youth and families in need of integrated mental health and addiction services, primary care, peer support and other social services.

"Today I can announce that Huddle is here for youth, because you were here for Huddle," said Guillemard, tipping her hat to youth advisors who helped shape the hubs.

Huddle Broadway manager Levi Labelle said the site at West Broadway Commons, 533 Broadway Avenue, has been open for youth aged 12 to 29 since last December. In that time, over 200 individual youth have visited thousands of times, and staff have been part of over 1,700 mental health interventions.

"No matter what their question is, no matter what their problem is, this is a place they can find a solution," said Labelle.

Huddle Broadway has just four staff, but Labelle says partnerships with youth-serving organizations will bring a hostof supports and workshops through the doors to help youth with everything from employment and housing to addictions and mental health. Cultural supports include Indigenous ceremonies and a visiting Elder.

Labelle says Huddle Broadway is also focussed on serving the West End, with staff visiting West End 24-hour Safe Space—an overnight space on Langside Street which serves many homeless youth—once a week to facilitate peer support workshops. The collaboration with the West End safe space began with volunteering and sharing knowledge, Labelle says.

"We met with them a number of times and really connected about some of the issues that youth and the West End community were facing, particularly around issues of grief and grieving."

Huddle Broadway staff have also been providing one-on-one counselling at area schools, including Gordon Bell, Grant Park and Winnipeg Adult Education.

"We heard that there was a need in the Winnipeg School Division—just a lot of youth really struggling during COVID with depression, anxiety, those sorts of things," said Labelle, who believes their work in schools helped raise their profile and brought youth to the hub.

Huddle Broadway is being operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association Manitoba and Winnipeg (CMHA). Executive director Marion Cooper calls it a dream come true.

"The Huddle branding is a beautiful metaphor, the huddling of love and support to help young people."

Cooper says it cost $400,000 to develop the Huddle Broadway space. About $215,000 came from funders, including the province, and CHMA fundraised the rest—a task she feels grateful has gotten easier.

"Mental health has always struggled in terms of being a charity that people want to donate money to, historically...but youth mental health is finally getting the kind of support that it requires. People are donating and committing money in a way that they weren't ten years ago," says Cooper.

Besides the province, which says it earmarked $1.92 million towards the six Huddle sites, contributing organizations include Bell-Graham Boeckh Foundation Partnership, The Moffat Family Fund at The Winnipeg Foundation, RBC Foundation, Réseau Compassion Network and United Way Winnipeg.

Go to huddlemanitoba.ca for information on hours and programming.

Sean Ledwich, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf

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