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Kamloops groups helping less fortunate

People in Motion executive director Heather Brandon talks about the programs offered through the agency and the important role they play in helping those with disabilities.
May 23, 2013 - 4:19 PM

Where do people who have addictions go in Kamloops? What about those living with disabilities? And if they have no place to call home? How do they get back on their feet after facing homelessness? These were some of the many questions the United Way attempted to help answer on a Seeing is Believing tour this week.

Nearly a dozen people embarked on a bus tour that traveled to four different agencies in Kamloops  - all offering services to less fortunate people in the community - on Wednesday. Last week a tour to agencies providing family-based services took place and the United Way hopes to host several more over the course of the year. Last year a total of 11 tours were held.

This time around the first stop was the Phoenix Centre, tucked away near Royal Inland Hospital. The centre offers detox programs to both youth and adults and was recently approved to offer 11 supportive recovery beds at the Emerald Centre.

Executive director Sian Lewis says the program also offers counselling and outreach. The program provides an integral first step to those looking to change their lives and the new recovery program will fill a gap that has been around for a long time, Lewis says.

“These people often don't have stable housing – that could mean they're homeless, couch surfing or don't have support at home. They often are left to sink before they've even begun to swim – they need more support.”

Offering this supportive step is important to help establish positive life skills, the tour was told, and is why so many agencies are now partnering to help combat homelessness in Kamloops. Offering resources and a way for groups to work together is the role the United Way takes on.

A key area that needs focus is youth homelessness, and a youth outreach program through Interior Community Services is providing that element – offering a drop-in, meals, shower and laundry facilities and a social environment where youths up to age 25 can stop in whenever they are in need (during centre hours.)

The centre saw more than 1,100 visits last year, but after moving to a new location behind the Kamloops Arts Council (the old courthouse) on Seymour has become a destination instead of a drive-by drop in. This has resulted in less than predictable numbers of participants.

For those able to pay rent Sundergreen Apartments on the North Shore offers affordable housing and life skills programs – from basic social skills and conflict management to nutrition and helping to get past social anxiety.

People from all walks of life call Sundergreen home, from seniors and young families to people with brain injuries or addictions and B.C. Housing is working with Ask Wellness to make the private rentals even more affordable. The ultimate goal of the complex is to help people maintain and retain housing and to give them a safe place where they want live, not just a place they can afford to live.

Around the corner People in Motion is offering a slightly different program, helping those with disabilities stay active and integrated through fitness, recreation and social activities, as well as life skills programs. In 2012 more than 190 events were offered through the agency.

A large percentage of those using People in Motion have autism and day-to-day activities such as laundry, dishes and nutrition are often overlooked as things those with autism or other disabilities are capable of. Workshops through the agency help those with disabilities learn these basic skills. Not having these skills can leave them unable to care for themselves or fearful of challenges like living on their own or even just taking the bus.

During the tour the four agencies offered a glimpse of what it takes to help combat homelessness, emphasizing the connection between homelessness and life skills. Amber Harding of the United Way says one agency cannot do it all which is why her agency provides a link to others - to help provide a better way to combat homelessness in Kamloops.

“One agency can't do it. One person can't do it. That's why HAP (homelessness action plan) was formed, to bring partners together.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email jstahn@infotelnews.ca or call (250) 819-3723.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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