Community fights to save YMCA-Guy Favreau
Members, volunteers and administrators at the YMCA-Guy Favreau are fighting to keep the centre open after skyrocketing rent made continued operations impossible.
“It’s very sad,” said YMCAs of Quebec CEO and President Stephane Vaillancourt. “I’ve been here 14 years, this is certainly the saddest period I’ve been through.”
The YMCA, which is home to a fitness centre and Chinese community centre, moved into the federal building on Rene-Levesque Blvd. in the 1980s. At the time, their lease was a mere $1-per-year.
In 2006, a new law eliminated rental subsidies for federal properties. Since then, the rent has increased to $240,000-per-year. Unable to afford to keep the doors open, the YMCA is scheduled to close for good on May 31.
Jack Lee, a Chinese community leader, is one of people fighting and it’s not the first time he’s taken on the federal government. In 1977, when the Complex Guy Favreau was being designed, he wrote a letter to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, asking for it to be scaled back to protect housing in Chinatown.
“He listened to me and I got the support of all the political parties,” said Lee.
Lee said the YMCA has become a pivotal part of his community.
“The YMCA gives us a chance to exercise, make us in good shape, less sickness,” he said.
Now, he’s planning to write another letter to another Prime Minister Trudeau, hoping to have the same success.
Others have come forward telling their tales of how the YMCA helped them. Phil Chu said he was struggling financially when he was given access to the fitness facilities in exchange for volunteering.
“I finally got back on my feet and I enjoyed it so much, being a part of this community, I decided to keep doing it,” he said. “I mean, real lives are going to be really affected here.”
The community hasn’t given up. Two petitions have garnered a total of 3,000 signatures and a meeting will be held on March 15 at 11:45 a.m. to come up with ideas on how to save the Y.