Young people in Brampton just need space.

So the city and its regional counterpart are pulling together almost $12 million and asking them to design it.

Through online workshops held this month and an ongoing questionnaire, the fast-growing city northwest of Toronto is collecting ideas about what two new youth hubs for 14- to 29-year-old residents should look like and be used for.

“We definitely have a sandbox that we're playing in, but we have a very large vision,” project lead Yvonne Sinniah said of the development of a 12,000-square-foot go-to space for youth and a smaller one to interact with it in a hub-and-spoke model.

It’ll take a bit of time, though — up to three years to deliver the main space and 18 months for the satellite one, with the design process to kick into gear over the winter.

The idea for the spaces springs from the new council’s “root cause and upstream approach” to address issues, including gun and gang violence, by looking to solve the underlying reasons, said the councillor whose ward will host the main hub.

“Many of them were saying to us that we need a place for young people to be, just to be, to be and to safely access services and supports that they need,” Coun. Rowena Santos said about the record number of deputations it received from young people and youth organizations.

Santos said she and other members of council have heard about a dire lack of social services for vulnerable young people, with one middle school principal telling them earlier this year they were unable to get mental health support for a recently fostered student.

Coun. Rowena Santos says young people in Brampton need a safe space to just be. Photo supplied by City of Brampton

Sinniah says the spaces — the main one will be next to Century Gardens Recreation Centre and the smaller one at South Fletcher’s Sportsplex — will need to be flexible to accommodate the different life stages covered by that age range.

Young people in #Brampton are helping the city design two new spaces for local youth as part of council's approach to solving issues in the community by trying to address the underlying causes.

Since asking them for their views on the hub plan, “we're hearing so much more, and it's quite dynamic, and we're allowing that to happen right now, because nothing is fixed in terms of design,” Sinniah said.

Those in high school are more likely to want after-school or evening programming, for example, while college and university students might want to use it during the day, said Sinniah, who also heads the city’s COVID-19 Youth Support Task Force.

There are some 130,000 young people in Brampton out of a population of just under 600,000 at the 2016 census, making it one of the youngest cities in the country. Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of Brampton residents identify as a "visible minority."

The city, part of the Peel region that includes larger Mississauga to the south and the smaller town of Caledon to the north, has struggled to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Many of its residents work in industrial settings, transportation, logistics and food processing and have been unable to work remotely.

Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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