The phrase “social safety net” is often bandied about, but what does it really mean? By definition it is a collection of services provided including social supports, healthcare, homeless supports etc.
St. Albert’s front-line service providers who play such a strong role in St. Albert’s social safety net excel in collaboration. A few years ago, a high level group developed the idea of working groups in the city. These working groups, divided into youth, family and senior, have members who represent most, if not all, of the social service providers in the area.
This article will focus on the Family Working Group. Many folks comment on the fact that they really are unaware of the services that are available in the city. It is our goal to raise awareness and educate the residents on the services within the city.
The Family Working Group has many partners at the table. They include The Family Resource Centre, Child and Family Services, St. Albert Public Library, two of the school boards, St. Albert PCN, Salvation Army, R.C.M.P., St. Albert Day Care Society, Transitions, Star Literacy, Further Ed., Elizabeth Fry Society, St. Albert Affordable Housing, Alberta Supports, Community Social Development and the St. Albert Community Village and Food Bank. The group meets monthly to discuss, identify and address emerging needs in the community. We just completed our three-year strategic plan, which has seven issues that have been identified, and for which action plans have been developed. The seven issues include: the lack of support for those in crisis, the need for improvements in existing and additional much-needed services in the community, domestic violence (not going down but staying the same), lack of appropriate housing, the necessity to upgrade life-skills for those in need within the community, a lack of knowledge about current programs and services offered in the community, and barriers to employment services within the community.
The group has prioritized the issues and those deemed most critical will be addressed first. An example is that the group is looking at playing a role in advocating for quality, affordable child care so that parents can secure employment. This is an action plan to address some of the barriers to employment.
Another example of an action plan will be to advocate for second stage housing for those fleeing domestic violence. Second stage housing follows the emergency housing that a family may seek when first leaving a violent situation. Second stage housing allows the family to live in a safe environment where counselling and any required life skills training can be provided for up to one year.
The working groups meet annually to touch base with each other. This is an opportunity to find out what each agency is offering, which greatly reduces duplication of service and allows for a more seamless service delivery. We can then refer our families with the confidence that they will receive the assistance they require.
As we raise awareness in the City on what the agencies are able to provide, it is our hope that more residents will be knowledgeable about the services available, and able to pass the information along to people they might meet who are in need. For more information please contact Suzan at the St. Albert Community Village firstname.lastname@example.org
Suzan Krecsy is the director of the St. Albert Food Bank.