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Drop-in centre sees tons of traffic for opening day

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
October 14th, 2009

Photo: city councillor and coordinator of the Community Harvest Food Bank Deb McIntosh

Today, for the first time, a drop-in centre opened its doors to offer Castlegar residents a helping hand.

The new drop-in centre was open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with volunteers on hand to help residents find and access a massive range of services available in the community, from mental health to employability; from literacy to domestic violence.

Deb McIntosh, city councillor and coordinator of the Community Harvest Food Bank, said it was past time a facility of this sort was opened to serve a growing need in the city.

“It was created through various community service providers – we’ve been having discussions on how we can bring something forward (to offer) a more collaborative approach to helping people on a case-by-case basis,” McIntosh said. “Currently, people are being sent down to the (Station) museum to see me on various issues – and that’s no longer a productive solution, because there’s just too much need.”

She said the drop-in centre is a one-stop shop, providing information on, and access to, a whole gamut of service providers, since people in crisis often need to access more than one agency within the larger system.

For example, a family whose livelihood was lost when Interfor closed down may most need employability assistance – but a boost from the food bank would not come amiss, either, not to mention affordable childcare and recreation options for the kids.

“When you’re in crisis, you have no way of knowing what is available to help or how to access it,” she said. “When you’re in crisis, it’s really hard to look for this stuff on your own.”
The new facility will have service providers and specialists dropping in as well, in person, as their services are required and as their schedules permit.

“People come to us because they’re having a hard time – so part of our goal is to make it as easy for them as we can,” McIntosh said.

“Even just the paperwork for some of this stuff can be overwhelming, but it’s not so tough to face when you feel like there’s someone in your corner – when you’ve got some back up.”

McIntosh said the response was phenomenal, with about 20 people coming through the doors on its inaugural day.

“Lots of issues were brought up, from affordable housing to the need for help filling out forms to emergency winter clothing,” she said.

“We had people looking for help with their resumes, who didn’t have time to take a full course on resume-building, and some commenting on the lack of pay phones in Castlegar.

“Flu shots came up, requests for advocates, transitional housing for men … and some just asking for general information or information packages about what resources are here.”
The drop in centre will be available at St. David’s Anglican Church, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information or to volunteer some time, call the centre at 205-608-2227 or McIntosh at 250-365-6440.

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