ACCESS Youth Outreach meets youth where they are
By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter
Family conflict, substance abuse, and exploitation can lead young individuals to become dissociated from community. This may even lead to gang involvement and mental health issues.
ACCESS Youth Outreach Services aims to reach out to youth and guide them along a path to success before it’s too late. This Port Coquitlam-based non-profit organization has touched the lives of thousands of youth between 12–23 years old since its doors first opened in 1992.
The organization, previously named PoCoMo, has grown and developed in its efforts to meet youth on their level by adapting to their needs. One of the most successful programs has been Project Reach Out, in which a drop-by bus is open to any young minds looking for guidance or assistance in their lives, without judgement.
“We have young people coming to us with a range of challenges,” Jerome Bouvier, ACCESS’ executive director, said to Tri-City News. “Maybe it is social anxiety—some are just trying to feel comfortable leaving the house—to even more core issues, transgender issues, identity issues, substance abuse issues.”
Currently, every Friday and Saturday night from 7 p.m.–12 a.m., three spray-painted buses make their rounds in the Tri-City area (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody) to various parks, recreation centres, and school grounds. With volunteers prepared with snacks and smiles, the unique outreach program has resonated with the local community.
“[The bus] has kept me safe at night and it gives me good info about why I shouldn’t do drugs and the people on the bus don’t make me scared to open up,” shared Jerrod, a 14-year-old, on the ACCESS Youth testimonials page.
“I love the youth bus,” said Devon, a 16-year-old, in the testimonials. “I’m glad this thing exists. It should be in every country, and I think it makes people feel safer and happier. It feels good to get on the bus and not get totally judged.”
While Project Reach Out has been a hit, demand is predicted to increase, especially with more families moving into the Tri-City area and there being limited resources available. ACCESS relies strictly on the generosity of British Columbians. Whether it be through volunteering time at the organization or donating weekly or monthly, ACCESS hopes that support will remain strong in order to reach even more youth in the coming years.