Youth need spaces to hang out, be themselves and connect with friends, develop new ideas and projects, be active and creative. Youth-led businesses and organisations also need access to space to organize and plan. We need spaces that are safe, age appropriate, affordable, friendly and non-judgmental. However, it’s not always easy to find spaces that meet these needs. As the Social Planning Council of Toronto notes in their report on youth space
“while the benefits that result from community use of public spaces are well documented, youth organisations struggle to access affordable space in environments where youth feel included. They often don’t feel welcomed, or are not received with a friendly and accessible application process. Organisations are often unwilling to trust young people with the space, time and funds needed for their ideas to evolve into a tangible reality. Policies, procedures, and attitudes directed toward young people and public access can directly impact how ‘welcome’ or ‘safe’ youth feel, as well as what they are capable of creating” (n.d, p. 2).
They go on to note that this dynamic is often made worse if youth are members of a historically disadvantaged group.
What are youth in Victoria saying?
Most youth in our survey felt “fairly neutral” to “somewhat positive” about the availability of youth-friendly spaces in Victoria and the majority of respondents (81.7%) feel that there are resources in Victoria for them to pursue their interests. However, of those who don’t feel as though there are resources here for them, many indicate that money is a key barrier for them.
In total 214 youth provided suggestions about the type of youth-friendly spaces they would like to see more of in Victoria. Their responses make it clear that there is no “one size fits all” approach to creating youth friendly spaces. Youth have different needs: some are interested in places to hang out and connect with friends, others are looking for places to learn a new skill or organize a project of their own and others would like to see more youth-friendly services available. In our survey, the top five types of youth friendly spaces that youth would like to see more of are:
Recreation services, including sports and leisure activities. The responses in this category include organized physical activities and amenities such as gyms, basketball courts, skate and bike parks, and swimming pools and other ‘leisure’ activities such as pool halls, waterslides, etc.
“More sports groups for teens. It prevents at risk and regular youth from making unhealthy decisions and encourages team building and people skills to be developed.”
“more skate parks, bowling alleys, bike trails and free activities”
Bowling, bowling, bowling: second only to all other forms of recreation comments about a bowling came up time and time again, more than any other specific type of place or activity
Clubs for dancing, partying, and listening to music in a safe environment. Many youth noted that social activities in a ‘club-like’ environment are a great way to socialize and have fun but that there are few all-age venues for this type of activity. Youth also want these environments to be safe, drug and alcohol free. In addition many youth also want to see more all-age concerts and music venues including spaces to listen to live music, and spaces to create and perform.
“Youth friendly live music/performance space. A place where young people could go to hear bands, use as a jam space, have coffee, gather in a youth friendly place”.
“a music centre for youth. Like a rec centre for music. Soundproof rooms and a jam room where everyone can jam together. Open mic. Karaoke and guides so there's no drug use or drunk people coming in.”
Youth centres that include age-appropriate programming for youth of all ages, offer supports to young parents and are queer friendly and non-judgmental.
Places to hang out, including coffee shops and other spaces where youth can connect and talk to each other. Places that are affordable and welcoming of youth are important. Youth would like to see more places where they can go to meet new people.
“free cafes, volunteer-run by youth and for youth. Calm chill, safe and warm places to hang out for free”.
More services, especially health clinics, housing and shelter options, services for Aboriginal youth are also mentioned frequently, as are opportunities for youth to learn new skills, learn about social issues from each other, and contribute through volunteerism.
“I'm so blessed to have an outlet like the youth clinic. not judgmental, it is progressive and confidential”.
“More services for youth at the Victoria Native Friendship Center”
“a special organization for youths who want to help out the community and are given random task (e.g. visiting people in hospitals, performing a flash mob somewhere, planting gardens)”
Many youth comment on a lack of art spaces for them to pursue their interests, and make suggestions for free art programs and community dark rooms.
Youth also stress that they want places to go that are safe (including drug and alcohol free), age appropriate, friendly and non-judgmental. The youth who responded value a safe and welcoming environment, often supported by adults but where they don’t feel as though they are being over-supervised. Youth want autonomy in these spaces.