Sun Youth: End of an Era

Organization Set To Move from Original St-Urbain Building

Sun Youth, a local non-profit, must move out of its home of 38 years in the month of November due to an expiring lease. Photo Wala Amara

After 38 years, Sun Youth—a non-profit with the goal of providing services to families in need, and promoting social development through education, sports and recreation—is required to move out of its home in the former Baron Byng high school.

The upcoming move was prompted by the termination of the local organization’s lease by the Commission Scolaire de Montreal.

“The idea was popping up in the last two years, we knew that this day would come,” said Rodney Skerrit, Basketball Coordinator at Sun Youth.

The surge of inhabitants in the Mile-End area over the last ten years has generated several changes within the neighbourhood. It has seen a large number of families move in and multiple businesses opened as well.

The surge of children in St-Urbain that came along with this has forced the school board to consider renovating the Sun Youth building in order to use it to welcome some 5,000 new students in the coming years.

“This area was lower population before, mostly immigrants. Now it became kind of a trendy place to live. Now the trendy people are over and they’re having kids here. There’s a lot of kids around here. You’re seeing more families walking up and down the area more than ever,” says Skerrit.

The organization built a monumental clientele that either came for food banks or for indoor basketball. Skerritt himself used to play at the Sun Youth gymnasium when he was little

Sun Youth Co-founder Sid Stevens said that he and the late Earl de la Parelle hosted indoor basketball activities and tournaments to keep kids out of trouble and give them something to do.

“Twenty years ago we started a basketball tournament called the ‘Christmas Tournament’ along with food banks for people in need,” said Stevens. “We had to give [the kids] a reason to come, we hosted tournaments on the weekends, and we succeeded in doing that. The sport grew because it was a cheap sport.”

Skerritt believes that a strong culture has been created around the establishment and that this obligatory relocation will destabilize what the organization has worked on for several decades now.

“[The flow in the building] became really efficient. Clients would come downstairs, they would wait to get their food. They know how it works. It has been working for them,” said Skerritt.

“We had to give [the kids] a reason to come, we hosted tournaments on the weekends, and we succeeded in doing that. The sport grew because it was a cheap sport.” —Sid Stevens, Sun Youth Co-founder

Stevens explained that Sun Youth was hoping to purchase the school but the board decided to take back the facility.

As for the kids, Skerritt says that he doesn’t know how they will react when they’ll go to the gym for a game and then notice that the doors of the building are locked.

“Kids are generally a right now type of people. Until they come to a place and they see boarded up doors, they don’t know how to react,” he said.

Looking on the Bright Side

“We have been here 37 years, for most people, it’s their home. They belong here. A lot of history, a lot of things happened in 37 years,” commented Ernest Rosa, a Sun Youth coordinator.

“But on the other hand, the building is really old, hopefully, the next place that we will move to will be a lot newer and more refurbished,” added Rosa.

Stevens is very cheerful in regards to the future of Sun Youth in spite of the ongoing transition.

“We’re looking into buying a new gym. We’ve come along very well. We will succeed. We did it in the past,” he said.

The institution will be scattered among several buildings momentarily before finding an official new home to move into.