Jerome Bouvier of Access Youth Outreach Services

Jerome Bouvier of Access Youth Outreach Services

Reach Out fills a need in Langley

Langley City's lack of response to departure of Project Reach Out disappointing.

  • Mar. 12, 2015 3:00 p.m.

The executive director of Access Youth Outreach Services Society is disappointed with the City’s response to news of the departure of Project Reach Out at the end of this month.

Or, more accurately, it’s the lack of response that upsets Jerome Bouvier.

At its March 2 meeting, Langley City council cancelled a planned $1,500 grant to Project Reach Out, announcing they had received notification from Bouvier that the program would be discontinued in Langley, effective April 1, due to a lack of funding.

It was the first indication Bouvier had that the City had received the notice.

“I was disappointed they didn’t respond to the letter,” said Bouvier on Tuesday.

“I would have expected a phone call.”

He also wrote letters to the Township of Langley and to the RCMP and said he is still waiting to hear back from Mayor Jack Froese.

While the planned $1,500 grant from the City would have been appreciated, said Bouvier, as capital funding it would not have addressed the program’s ongoing need for operational funds.

“Capital funding is beneficial if you need a couch or tires,” he said. “But it doesn’t put gas in the bus and it doesn’t put staff in the bus.”

The Project Reach Out Bus, which travels around Langley City and Township each Friday and Saturday night, offering food, clothing, hygiene products and information to at-risk youth, has contact with an average of 60 young people on any given weekend, but Bouvier estimated the actual number of 12- to 18-year-olds in Langley who benefit from the service is between 300 and 500 individuals.

Project Reach Out, which is operated by the Tri-Cities-based Access Youth Outreach Services Society, entered Langley in 2011 on a $60,000 private donation and matching grant from the Rotary Club of Langley Central.

But it takes between $100,000 and $120,000 to operate the bus for one year, and so Bouvier has found himself continually scrambling to keep the program afloat.

“I write $600,000 to $700,000 in grant proposals per year to find enough money to fund the programs,” he said. “It’s exhausting.

“It’s a much-needed service, of course we know that,” said Bouvier. “We know it’s (leaving) a void and that’s tough on staff — they know the kids have come to count on it.

“The program is being shut down because it’s not being funded, but it’s the youth who are suffering.”

Bouvier acknowledged this isn’t a simple case of the City deciding not to provide operating funds.

“Each municipality has a different mandate in what they can supply,” he said.

“My pitch to the cities is that they need to look at the granting process.”

Bouvier also sent a letter to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, explaining the situation.

However, unless a program is operated under the auspices of the ministry, it is not eligible for provincial funding, he said, and Project Reach Out is not.

“Municipalities accuse the province of downloading the responsibility,” said Bouvier.

At the same time he said, the province tells municipalities that they must take care of their own responsibilities.

“The reality is, we all need to take responsibility.”