Young women get to be part of something special

The Young Women’s Drop-in is a chance for women in Ottawa to access the services they need in a casual and welcoming environment. And it’s been a resounding success—after four years, the Young Women’s Drop-in is still going strong.

Held weekly on Thursdays at the 147 Besserer, young women can access services like laundry, showers, snack and links to other great services. During the day, youth, men and women, can access the site for a range of services. The Women’s Drop-in takes place on Thursday evenings, and it’s a special Drop-in night for woman and woman-identified youth.

One of the people helping to facilitate the weekly Women’s Drop-in is Andrea Poncia, who has worked at YSB for a few years. She truly believes in this special space for young women only.

“It’s about young women getting to know each other, informal mentorship and peer to peer activities. It’s a positive space where discussions about HIV, HCV, sexuality, addictions are encouraged and easy to get into,” says Andrea.

The services offered are to support youth in meeting their basic needs such as access to the food bank, condoms and harm reduction exchange, crisis counselling, as well as social activities and interaction with friends. Around seven to 16 clients attend the group each week.

“There’s a nice crossover of services. So for example, we see youth coming to the Women’s Drop-in and maybe they learn about Gay Zone, a drop-in for GLBTTQ youth, and they start attending that group as well. Or youth find out about opportunities to get involved as leaders like with the Sexual Health Advisory Group SHAG and they link-in to that program where they get to develop new skills," she says.

"So it’s a great place to get more information or to find out about YSB’s other services and to link-in to other supports that a youth might need. And this is how we see the community blooming and relationships growing!” adds Andrea.

Community partners are there to assist with other services.  The Minwaashin Lodge is available to speak to aboriginal culture and experience. There is also Meredith from the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre who comes in to support youth with addictions counseling. The Sexual Assault Support Centre and Elizabeth Fry Society are a few of our other partners.

The weekly Women’s Drop-in is serving a need in the local Ottawa community, gearing its access towards women who are otherwise lacking in safe and stable spaces.

“The mentorship is really amazing. Often, clients who have moved on from addictions will talk to their peers about their experiences and struggles and how they overcame them, so an informal sort of mentorship happens,” says Andrea. She says it’s inspiring to see youth talking to younger peers about how the cravings of an addiction get less intense over time, and tha they can overcome their addictions if they stick it out.

There are also youth peer educators who have been trained and can talk to young women about HIV, Hepatitis C, sexually transmitted infections, among other important issues. So if a youth has questions, they have the choice of speaking to a staff member, a community partner or a peer educator. "It’s really important to provide those options for youth,” adds Andrea.

Last year, over 5,230 people of youth found out about HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C through YSB's peer-education programs.

For anyone not sure about going, Andrea really stresses that all youth who identify as women between the ages of 16 and 25 are welcome. “It’s really casual, it’s a great opportunity for youth to meet other people and hang out. You can meet other youth or just to have a nice snack.”

The Drop-in currently receives over 18,985 visits per year.

To contact Andrea, email hiv@ysb.on.ca

Other ways for young women to get involved at YSB

Purple Sisters Youth Advisory

Harm Reduction Youth Advisory

Sexual Health Youth Advisory

Downtown Drop-in Services

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