A drop-in centre that has provided support to generations of families is celebrating its 45th year.
Rossbrook House has been open for youth in the Centennial neighbourhood since its inception in 1976. Programming includes after-school homework clubs, organized sports and a music program.
While COVID-19 has halted those programs and forced the space to turn into a 24-7 safe space without programming, the ethos has remained the same: providing a place for kids and families in need.
"We knew there would be a lot of doors closed, and we had to be open," Rossbrook House executive director Phil Chiappetta said Wednesday, which marked the charity's 45th anniversary.
"There’s a lot of homeless youth out on the streets, there’s a lot of people who need a safe place to go. And with so many doors closing, we decided we had to stay open 24 hours and really provide the basics."
The shift in service includes a socially-distanced space for youth to relax or get out of the cold, if need be, snacks and meals and computer stations for students who need to access distance-learning classes.
Youth that use the services range from ages six to 24, and more than 1,000 pass through its doors every year.
Chiappetta has been executive director at Rossbrook House since 2006, but has been involved since the 1980s — a common story at the facility, which has a hiring model based around recruiting staff from the youth who regularly use its services.
"It just builds a really kind of empathetic, strong connection with the people who come through the door," he said. "It builds accessible role models."
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.