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Change Now, Now What?: Documentary Review

Monday, October 1, 2007

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Written by Victoria Brunet

Andrea K. Bennett and Kaitlin Schwan directed a documentary entitled; Change Now, Now What? which debut at the Salsateria, 33 Macdonell St., on Sunday as part of the Guelph Festival of Arts and Human Rights. The film consisted of footage and interviews conducted with Change Now clients, staff, board and community members.

The drop in center began in the 80’s as a grassroots organization dedicated to helping street kids. It moved around until settling into the space under Norfolk street United Church in 2004. While there youth could access many services or simply congregate in a safe place.

On Friday June 15th Change Now was closed and locked without warning, explanation or the creation of an alternative support system. Many kids seemed to disappear or were forced to return to possibly unsafe homes, described former staff members.

Wally Wilson attended the documentary screening and came away saying; “It was moving, sad, and upsetting yet inspiring to see the kids organizing from the very day it (the closure) happened.” The youth were intimately and immediately involved in creating petitions (that were signed by 2,000 people), raising awareness, conducting planning meetings, and speaking out at community forums while supporting each other by offering up spare couches. The documentary portrayed the youth as active participants with strong voices instead of victims.

After the documentary finished I was able to talk to a group of anonymous youth who had used the center in the past: “A lot of effort was put into Change Now, it meant so much to a lot of people, it is still hard to talk about.” said one male. The deep frustration in the group exemplified by this statement; “Big cities like Toronto have multiple drop ins, but Guelph doesn’t even have one! We [street youth] are still here proportionally, but we’re not getting the care we need.”

Many groups have stepped in to fill the gaps. The Norfolk church still serves food, as dose GUTS , and Fresh Start, at 150 Wyndham Street North, has a weekly art program. Meanwhile a steering committee made up of community members and youth are trying to develop a module of what the next shelter should look like.

Andrea Bennett, when taking questions after the screening, added that the United Way who funded Change Now, have called for proposals for a new shelter due on October 5th. The only ones that will be accepted will be from already registered charitable organizations. The short term goal seems to be to have a shelter in place before winter. The longer term possibility of a permanent drop in seems less concrete.

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