The Centre for Community Collaboration is officially opened with a special ribbon cutting Thursday by Monica Martin

The Centre for Community Collaboration is officially opened with a special ribbon cutting Thursday by Monica Martin

Vital agencies unite under one roof

The North Okanagan Centre for Community Collaboration officially opens its doors

Some of the region’s most vulnerable citizens now have a one-stop shop to accessing support in their daily struggles.

Those at risk of becoming homeless, victims of violence and brain injury patients can now get a helping hand at the North Okanagan Centre for Community Collaboration.

The centre brings eight different programs from three different agencies under one roof, to better serve those most in need.

The John Howard Society, Vernon Women’s Transition House Society and BrainTrust Canada officially opened the new centre Thursday, which is  located in the Creekside Professional Building (behind the Blue Moon Esso).

“It’s so emotional,” said a teary Phyllis Simon, president of the John Howard Society board. “It’s really amazing.”

Finding a place for these agencies to collaborate under one roof was only made possible by the generosity of local business owners Mike and Beverly Davies.

“The fact that we are here today is a testament to the goodwill of a man and his wife who can’t be here today,” said Barbara Levesque, John Howard Society executive director.

“They donated it to the community.”

The space, valued at $565,000, was then spruced up thanks to the local tradesmen and labourers who donated much of their time and skill to help renovate.

While it may not have the same glamour as some of the city’s facilities, Vernon Coun. Juliette Cunningham says this centre is more valuable.

“I think it’s going to be a huge boost for the work that is done by so many agencies in this community,” said Vernon Coun. Juliette Cunningham.

Monica Martin, with the Women’s Transition House, agrees that having a centre like this, which looks after those most in need, is a huge asset.

“It says so much about our community.”

For someone who is struggling to pay their rent and is going to be evicted, the centre offers services such as a homeless prevention program or legal advocate, to fight on their behalf.

And being downtown, those in need don’t have to go far to access the services.

“I just love that we get to collaborate with other agencies,” said Martin, noting that it adds to the collaboration which already takes place and is proving to be effective.

“That’s how you do good work.”

The following programs operate out of the new centre:

Homeless Prevention Program (John Howard Society) serving individuals and families at high risk of becoming homeless

Homeless Prevention Program (Vernon Women’s Transition House Society) supporting women and/or their dependant children who have experienced violence and are at risk of homelessness

Homeless Outreach Program (John Howard Society) working with individuals and families who are currently homeless to assist them in finding affordable housing

Legal Advocate Program (Vernon Women’s Transition House Society) providing information, referrals and representation to those with low-income

Legal Services Society Outreach (Vernon Women’s Transition House Society) improving access to legal aid services for those with low income

WorkBC (John Howard Society) assisting persons with “multiple barriers to employment” to access job skills training and find employment

Braintrust (BrainTrust Canada) providing community-based support and rehabilitation services to those  with brain injury

John Howard Society of the North Okanagan/Kootenay Region Administration offices