Young adult centre opens new chapter for Ometz

The official opening of the new young adult centre is slated for spring 2020. Staff and young adult participants are busy making plans for programming, resources and operations as well as consulting on the physical layout of the 5,000 square foot space it will occupy at the Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA at 5400 Westbury.

The new young adult centre is big news for Ometz. Onews spoke with Lisa Drupsteen who will manage l'Annexe, the Ometz Centre For Young Adults, to learn more about it and what it will mean for the young adults and community it will serve.


Q: What does the new young adult centre mean for Ometz?

LD: The new young adult centre is providing us with the opportunity to not only support more people in our community, but to maintain best practices when helping our young clients. Communities worldwide are recognizing the increased need for re-evaluating the continuum of care for emerging adults, who may be slipping through the cracks due to a lack of youth/young adult-friendly services.

This includes providing a space that is inclusive and easily accessible. We are eager to make the transition from our current model to a more holistic, wrap-around approach to help meet the multi-faceted needs of our young community members.

Q: This is a big, bold move. What kind of support has the project received?

First, none of this would be possible without the generous funding from the Azrieli Foundation. They really have opened the door for us to turn many of these dreams into a reality, and for that, we are truly grateful.

Speaking of generous, the construction and costs associated with the project are being covered by Steve Kaplan, president of Reliance Construction Group.

We are also incredibly lucky at Ometz to have a management and executive team that is committed to keeping up with best practices and are willing to embrace change.

Finally, we are very grateful for the seed grant we received from the Morris and Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation and the research grant awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. This funding has allowed us to collaborate with McGill University’s research team being led by Dr. Ada Sinacore who will be conducting Community-Based, Participatory Action Research. This process will allow us to build this centre from the ground-up with the on-going feedback of stakeholders and evaluation of service delivery.

Agence Ometz and the McGill research team will collaborate in all aspects of research including leadership, implementation, and on-going evaluation.
Dr. Ada Sinacore is the Associate Professor of the Counselling Psychology Program Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology Faculty of Education McGill University and Program Director of the Social Justice and Diversity Research Lab. She will be the principal researcher on the project.

The methodological approach for Community-Based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR) is an innovative approach to research where all parties are engaged in every step of the research process. The aim of this collaborative partnership is to develop programming, resources, and services from intersectional, culturally informed, and developmental perspectives, which attend to the needs of youth and young adults.


Q: Tell me a little about your professional background and your history with Ometz.

LD: I graduated from Concordia University in 2014 with a Master’s degree in Creative Arts Therapies, specializing in Drama Therapy. My journey with Ometz started in 2016 as a group worker, running workshops for elementary and high school students on themes including body image and self-esteem.

I went on to coordinate some exciting projects including the mentorship program; an afterschool program for students with learning disabilities; a pilot project that brought workshops on stress, anxiety, and social skills into nine Jewish schools in the community; and the alternative therapies program in the mental health department.

Finally, last year I was contracted to gather insights on best practices for youth/young adult centre services and design. It was this opportunity that led me to the position of manager for the young adult centre, for which I am immensely grateful.

Overall, I would say that my experience at Ometz to date has allowed me to recognize some gaps in services for our young clients and to optimize the current strengths of the agency.

Despite the official opening of l’Annexe being scheduled for the beginning of 2020, the planning stages are in full swing. We are even going to launch some pilot programs prior to the opening of the centre to start strengthening the sense of community among our young participants. One initiative I am particularly excited about is a leadership training program that will provide interested participants with additional tools to play a more active role in the program development for the centre.

I see myself as a bridge between the frontline workers, the executive team of Ometz, and the young adults.


"We are all working collaboratively to determine effective models of service, programming, and partnerships."


Q: How will service delivery differ at the new centre from the way it has been done in the past?

LD: Overall, our aim is to make services more inclusive and accessible for emerging adults. We are shifting from a more traditional one-on-one service model, to a true wrap-around-service model. Rather than everyone needing to go through formal intake and to be assigned an individual worker, participants will have more ownership over what their care plan will look like.

This could range from low-barrier drop-in groups that do not require an intake procedure, to a more intensive plan that may include a few sessions with a counsellor, on-going follow-up with a case manager, and a consultation with an employment specialist in order to help reach their goals.

Another way of making services more accessible for young people will be to expand the hours of operation from the traditional 9 to 5, to approximately 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. This will also allow us the opportunity to launch new programs and to revive some of the innovative group-work that has been successful in the past such as cooking groups, or peer support-training programs for young people.

We are also hoping to partner with allied professionals to provide a range of additional services in the evenings including a health clinic and legal information.


"The key is having staff and participants working collaboratively under one roof to assess needs and to create an efficient road to healthy development."


Q: L’Annexe is also a physical space. What will it look like?

One of the most unexpected and interesting parts of my job so far has been the opportunity to collaborate with the architect of the project, André Ibghy of Ibghy Architecte Inc. In addition to his expertise, we consulted various sources to inform the design, including innovative ‘one-stop-shop’ youth centres all over the world, our staff, and our very own young community members.

The final rendering consists of a large drop-in space including a lounge and fully equipped kitchen where young people can come to relax, socialize, grab a snack, or take part in one of many exciting drop-in programs.

There are classrooms that will be home to educational and training programs such as language classes or employment workshops. The tables and chairs can also be tucked away to make way for a variety of other programming such as music therapy or mindfulness workshops.

The staff will occupy offices in an open-plan concept with access to private meeting rooms for one-on-one consultations.

Q: How will l’Annexe be staffed?

LD: I am so thrilled to be bringing together such a skilled team of current and new professionals to fulfill the centre’s mandate and support our young and diverse community members. Our workers have valuable experience working with young adults, the LGBTQ+ community, those with mental health challenges, young adults on the spectrum, and more. The core team will consist of case managers, employment specialists, youth workers, and support staff.

We will also collaborate with educators, counsellors, and an amazing team of volunteers who will be vital in strengthening our wrap-around-services. I’m sure the team will only continue to grow as the centre develops.

Q: Will l’Annexe have its own distinct identity?

LD: This project is providing us with the opportunity to design a space with young people in mind from the very beginning, and therefore, l’Annexe will look and feel very different from the current Ometz set-up. It has been very helpful to consult with some of our young community members who have provided us with important insight as to what the look and feel of the space should be.

We have also worked in collaboration with a digital agency specializing in marketing and branding. They have really opened our eyes to the various ways in which the centre can take on a life of its own and have given us the tools to make our vision come to fruition.

Q: Will there be a connection with the Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA?

LD: I sure hope so! They have been really welcoming and supportive of our project so far. The Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA has been taking great strides to expand their inclusion services. I am particularly inspired by their youth and family engagement initiatives.

We have already had some exciting conversations about possible ways of collaborating. Our goal is not to duplicate services, but rather design and grow programs that will complement one another.

While their focus will remain on recreational programming and ours on psychosocial supports, I would love to see a stronger bridge that will allow for a more well-rounded experience for the young people who access our services.

Q: What is your hope and vision for the new youth adult centre?

Transitioning from childhood to adulthood is a challenging developmental milestone. Many of the young people we see at Ometz are facing additional obstacles, making this a very vulnerable time. My hope for l’Annexe is that it will provide a safe haven where young people can share their stories, discover what they need to thrive, feel comfortable asking for help, and ultimately gain the tools they need to maximize their well-being and to be more independent.

I am a firm believer in the power of community in strengthening one’s sense of purpose and reducing social isolation. To me, that is what we are building: a community hub. I want people to feel welcome, to know they have a place to go when things get difficult and that people are there to support them every step of the way.


"At the end of the day, this space belongs to the young people."


Q: What would be on your wish list for l’Annexe going forward?

LD: Where do I begin? Overall, my wish is that the centre will have the resources to offer a large range of services under one roof, and that every service will be free to access.

Because of my professional background as a drama therapist, I am excited to see the growth of our alternative therapies program in the space, as I have seen first-hand the power of creativity in healing and positive development. Whether it is through music therapy, animal-assisted therapy, or our eco-therapy program in our community garden, these services offer young people an alternate route to self-expression and discovery.

I hope to see a committee of young voices continue to grow and contribute to the centre’s programming and services based on need and interests. One idea that emerged recently was a podcast workshop, or spoken word events, so they can share their stories. I think as long as we remain open to their feedback, we are in good hands.


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