We don’t really take volunteers at the Thistle.

The entire Thistle project is driven by youth – the vast bulk of who volunteer many hours a week. And even our paid staff – youth coordinators, mentors, interns and directors alike – put in many more hours than they get recompensed for. We’re all happy to do it and the heart of the project revolves around self-reliance, generosity, mutual aid, good times and enthusiasm.

Volunteers tend to subtly undermine this ethic. We don’t really need ‘help’ as it is charitably defined.

What we always welcome are people of all ages who are willing to participate, help take care of the place, run projects, clean the bathrooms, have fun, make stuff, figure out what needs to be done and do it.  If that might be you, come on down.

Policy on “research”


We get a lot of requests to conduct research at the Thistle from grad students, profs and researchers from all over the world hoping to study queer kids, street-involved youth, young mothers, native kids, democratic decision-making, inner-city radical movements, high-risk this, high-risk that, low-income this, low-income that etc. etc.

Our answer to all is: of course. We would love to have you come offer a program or class, initiate some kind of project, participate for some time in an existing initiative or otherwise engage in a real way with the folks here and then feel free to write about your experiences.
But we do not accept short-term studies, focus-groups, ethnographers, interviews, one-off visits, observations etc.  The corporate academic-industrial complex has a long and storied history of ‘research’ that overwhelmingly turns its learned gaze to Africans, natives, marginalized people, poor people, kids, women etc – ‘studies’ them then leaves. They take but not give. Their careers and healthy incomes and grants and fellowships and reputations are advanced and the objects of their study are left, still poor, still marginalized and with nothing to show. Despite fifty years of sustained radical critique, maybe most powerfully from people like Linda Tuhiwai Smith and other postcolonial theorists, academia continues to habitually objectify its study subjects and the Thistle aint going there.

Like John Holt said (I’m paraphrasing, but closely) – If people would stop studying poor kids and start helping them, there would be a lot less to study.

We are sure you are a terrific person and have different intentions, and if you would really like to work with the Thistle kids in a fair exchange: one that leaves them with as much or more than you take; one that sustains a relationship over time; one that does not objectify them but consciously respects them – then we would be more than happy to take it to the youth collective that makes all core decisions for the centre and see what they say, but any proposal would need to substantively address our concerns.

We realize that our expectations rarely match the time frames, abilities, skills, desires and/or capacities of researchers who are very busy, have limited time, and specific and pressed research agendas. So no hard feelings at all if you are not interested in a longer-term relationship with the Thistle and we wish you all the best with your research.