Providing physical spaces where young people feel valued and empowered is essential to support their positive development. Safe spaces for youth are places where young people can come together to express themselves and engage in decision-making processes that impact their lives.
There is, however, an important distinction between a place and space. While a place provides a physical location, space is created by those who interact in it. Youth should have an active and on-going role in creating a youth-friendly space, including guidelines, safety protocols, atmospheres, activities, and so forth.
When selecting a safe space for young people to occupy, it is important to keep the following points in mind:
- Is the location easy for youth to find and get to?
- Do the hours of operation meet young people’s needs and schedules?
- Is the building accessible for youth with disabilities and special needs?
- Safe Space
- Is the physical space comfortable and appealing to youth?
- Is there a quiet area that youth can use to de-stress and practice self-care?
- Is there an opportunity for youth to make the place their own?
Youth cafés are a great way to create a safe space for youth to support their positive development. It is also an innovative response to the changing needs of young people in our modern society.
A youth café is a safe, friendly, and inclusive space for young people to meet friends and relax, get involved in suitable activities, deal with concerns they may have, and gain access to resources, support, and services to enable them to be healthy, productive, and connect with their communities. Thus, it is important to ensure that the location is inviting and relaxing, with recreational and entertainment elements incorporated into it.
Another key element of youth cafés is that they reflect the principles of youth-adult partnership. In these spaces, it is possible for youth to develop quality relationships, not only between their peers but also, with adult allies.
Although adult allies are an important element, a youth café should be governed by young people for young people, where youth are involved in all aspects of the process of starting a youth café.
When young people are given responsibility for the various tasks involved in developing a youth café, an atmosphere of confidence will prevail, with people feeling secure and valued for their efforts. This level of involvement and participation will bring about an atmosphere of ownership and trust. Being involved in a youth café will give young people the opportunity to learn new skills, take on new roles and meet different types of people. It also allows them to be creative and develop their confidence.
When we provide young people with the space to gain access to resources, develop their skills and assets, and actively participate in their community, youth can fully realize their potential.