It’s about keeping the wheels on the bus going round and round.
For 17 years, Access Youth has packed up a bus and rolled through the Tri-Cities to help young people by offering, food, clothing, blankets, personal hygiene items and, for the last few years, naloxone.
This Tuesday evening, Access Youth is holding a fundraiser at Woody’s Pub in Coquitlam in a bid to keep the bus in gear.
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It’s a critical need, explains Access Youth executive director Jessica Williams.
Over the years, outreach workers have intervened in overdoses, fistfights and stopped youth from lighting a bonfire during a fire ban, Williams says.
But in the last few years, the work has increasingly become a matter of life and death.
In the days when the organization was known as PoCoMo Youth, there was “a lot of resistance” to the idea they should offer clean needles or safe supply, Williams recalls.
“Just in the Tri-Cities alone last school year, we lost five youth under the age of 18 to the toxic drug supply,” Williams says. “It has taken those numbers for people to start really realizing that we have a drug issue in the Tri-Cities and it needs to be addressed now.”
In January 2021, Access Youth started Project Reach Out. More commonly known as The Bus, the program is the only mobile harm reduction supply distributor in the Tri-Cities.
Besides offering naloxone to youth who need it and grief counselling to young people who have lost a friend to the toxic drug crisis. In August they started offering drug testing strips to help drug users avoid toxic doses.
The strips come along with some training and education on drugs, Williams explains.
“That along with the naloxone are the two most popular requests from our youth when it comes to harm reduction supplies,” Williams says.
Besides The Bus, Access Youth also offers after school programs, career programs, a cooking program, art journaling, and one-on-one case management for higher-risk youth.
“Our youth are our future,” Williams says. “As a society and a community we are responsible for shaping their future.”
The event is scheduled for 5:30 to 9 p.m., Nov. 29. More info here.
To learn more about Access Youth, click here.