Caring about kids
Side Door Youth Drop-In Centre still meeting a need for city youth

Darren Campbell
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 11/98) - October 17, 1995 was a good day for young people in Yellowknife.

That was the day the Side Door Youth Drop In Centre opened its doors.

And kids in the city have been using the centre ever since. Kevin Laframboise said the facility has become a place for kids to hang out, have fun and talk about their problems.

"We're a warm place to come," said Laframboise. "Not only because of the heat but because of the company."

There is evidence that young people are turning to the centre more and more. Laframboise said when he first came to Yellowknife as the coordinator of Side Door in 1996, they were getting 20-30 kids regularly.

Now they are getting 40-60 kids on a regular basis. And on a busy Saturday night sometimes 100 kids will pack into Side Door, located in the basement of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church.

Side Door also has plenty of gadgets to draw in today's kids. It has a pool table, big-screen television, the latest and coolest video games, two computers with Internet access, couches, foosball and ping-pong tables.

But beyond the games, Laframboise said the kids come to Side Door because he and assistant coordinator Simon Harris care about them.

"We're not just here to provide a place to play pool," said Laframboise. "The purpose is to be here for the kids."

Side Door caters to young people from the ages of nine to 24. Tuesday and Saturday nights are the main drop-in nights where they can stop by and hang out. Wednesday night is movie/discussion night and Thursday is Young Adult Night, set aside for 18 to 24 year-olds.

There is also Young Side Door Night on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons from 3:30-5 p.m.

While the Side Door is an outreach program for the church, Laframboise said he doesn't preach religion to them. However, cursing is not condoned in Side Door and no one is allowed into the place if they have been using alcohol or drugs.

Not every kid who comes into Side Door is troubled or at risk. But Laframboise said he has been told that the centre is helping keep some kids out of serious trouble.

"I've had some kids say if this place wasn't here they would be doing drugs or more drugs," said Laframboise. "This place relieves the pressure to do drugs because they aren't allowed here."

Laframboise said it costs $100,000 a year to run Side Door. They get that money from donations from organizations like the Yellowknife Elks Club and funding proposals they send out across the country. Most of the time money is tight for Side Door but they always manage.

"Sometimes we don't know where the money is coming from month to month," said Laframboise. "But at the end of the month it's there."