Those who identify with disabilities in Hay River and are in need of clothing, food and shelter will now have somewhere to go for the winter.The Hay River Committee for Persons with Disabilities has tapped into $10,000 from a new pot of funding to help provide necessities to their clients during the chilly months.
The committee has been unofficially providing a similar service since it moved office from the Gensen Building to a larger office beside the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre.
“We noticed such heavy traffic of people looking for food, shelter, coffee. People had nowhere to go,” said the committee’s executive director Pravina Bartlett.
So the committee looked into a call for proposals from the NWT Housing Corporation for the new Shelter and Food Emergency (SAFE) Program.
Clients registered with the committee now have daily access to drop-in cold and hot meal programs, emergency off-site shelter and necessary clothing.
The small-scale program officially opened on Jan. 8 and, in three days, had fed and clothed 12 people. It has yet to offer shelter, but when it does, it has a designated, off-site spot with a night-time attendant.
This is a pilot project, noted Bartlett.
Members of the committee eventually want to open a transition house for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. The housing corporation also has multi-year funding up to $40,000, potentially for similar programs.
So far, most of the people accessing the service are clients of the life-skills program who identify as having a disability. People who register with the committee can do so for free, but need to identify as being affected by a disability.
The program is available until March 31.
“So far it’s been success,” Bartlett said. “The first day it was advertised we had five extra people come through the door.”
Bartlett, along with committee president Lillian Crook, said they have noticed the programming fulfils a need for a segment of the community that’s often left to fend for themselves.
“We’ve noticed that our group has really opened up since coming here,” said Bartlett. “Over the holidays many of our clients would have been alone. This year they are getting together. They rarely ever miss class.”
“More people in the community are coming out and saying, ‘We need help,’” said Crook. “More are able to come out and say they have a disability.”