Dufferin Mall Youth Services (DMYS) is closing its doors on Thursday, Dec. 6 after almost two decades in the community.
Run by a group of agencies that pool their resources, DMYS has provided a myriad of activities and services like supportive counselling, employment counselling, medical treatment and social events over the years.
“Obviously, it’s a real loss for youth in this neighbourhood,” said Maureen Fair, executive director of St. Christopher House, the lead agency in co-ordinating and operating DMYS. “Youth services in general have had a real lack of funding. There hasn’t been sustained, long-term use funding for a very long time, especially in the downtown area.”
Situated inside Dufferin Mall on Dufferin Street, just south of Bloor Street West, DMYS has been a one-stop resource that has offered confidential storefront counselling and referral services to youth between the ages of 12 and 24 and their families. As many as 350 kids benefitted from DMYS at any one time.
Teens and youth could meet with an employment counsellor who would help them with their resume writing and connect them with prospective employers on Wednesday afternoons from noon to 5 p.m. On Thursday, they could speak one-on-one with a cousellor about anything that was bothering them, said Natalie Maxwell, a DMYS youth worker. The drop-in space provided free use of computers.
Dufferin Mall had been donating the space for years, Fair told The Villager. But its management team, Primaris REIT, plans to redevelop the existing space for retail, she said.
A Dufferin Mall spokesperson did not return The Villager’s request for comment before deadline. The DMYS facility, along with other commercial space on the mall’s lower level will be converted into retail space as part of its new expansion plan.
“A mall is a natural place for kids to convene,” said Fair of DMYS’s ideal location.
It is with heavy hearts that DMYS youth workers informed its clients of the news. DMYS served as a “second home,” for some teens.
“We were able to talk about different issues in our lives, joke and have fun together,” shared one in a letter to community members.
Despite the closure, area youth will not be left in the lurch.
“All partners will continue to provide services through their organizations,” said Fair referring to St. Christopher House, the Abrigo Centre, the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, Toronto Public Health and the Catholic Children’s Aid Society.
They are committed to maintaining programming for youth and will continue to work collaboratively as advocates in the west end, she said.
In celebration of its two decades of accomplishments and to mark its closing, an open house is scheduled for Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m.