Filling the gap – exploring a lack of local social resources
This is part two of a series that will explore the various social needs of the community and help to determine what is being done to address those needs.
Albertans are very lucky to have access to services like mental health supports, family programs and counselling and Lacombe is no exception to offering those services.
In Lacombe and area, the problem lies in the sheer volume of residents and clients as compared to the available agency services.
Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), Neighborhood Place, Victim Services, Lacombe Mental Health, the Lacombe Foundation and Volunteer Link are examples of services put in place to help residents build on their basic needs. Many of these agencies must still rely on the assistance of those around Lacombe and in Red Deer to fulfil the needs of the community.
Debbie Barron is the executive director of Victim Services, a 24-hour a day Lacombe Police program that helps to direct people to the services they need during a crisis.
“Basically what we do is act as a sort of first-response support to crisis. I’d say about 95 per cent of my referrals come from the police, because we are a police-based unit,” Barron said.
“We’re kind of the first response after police. Usually what happens is the police will arrive at a scene where there is complete turmoil and someone’s in shock or is distressed. The cops will call us in and I would come in and act in a nice, calm, compassionate manner and let the victim know where they can go to get help.”
Victim Services is a crucial step for many Lacombians experiencing a domestic violence situation, those facing homelessness, dealing with trauma or grief or for people who are unsure of how to remove themselves from a dangerous situation.
Neighborhood Place is a similar type of service provider – there is an intake process and appropriate referrals made to outside organizations. They work with families, individuals and the community agencies that provide aid to those people.
“What we do is basically two things: the first is that we help individuals and families. If they walk in the door, we provide all the services that we can provide here or we send them where they need to go. The other half is helping the organizations in the community build capacity to help others,” said Barb Walker, director of Neighbourhood Place.
Neighborhood Place is connected a vast array of organizations and people in Central Alberta throughout Lacombe and Red Deer. The relationships built through referrals, inter-agency meetings and development of community coordination are all benefits of the agency.
It is important that people in Lacombe understand there are services and programs in place within the City to cover a number of issues, she added. Youth programs, parenting support and counselling are a number of available assistance programs as well.
Another important thing to note is that most of these services are free, which means the programs are running on a budget and may not be accessible for a wide range of hours in a day. As well, because there is a limited amount of options for people to access, the volume of clients in each of these establishments is high.
“Right now, we’re dealing a lot with domestic violence, sexual assault, assault, theft, fire – we deal with a lot of stuff. There has been a huge increase in theft lately. And that’s something we work through as well,” Barron said.
Between FCSS, Victim Services and Neighborhood Place, there is a plethora of resources that can be directed to clients.
Unfortunately services such as a women’s emergency shelter, a women’s outreach, addictions services and housing programs that meet the needs of the community are not available in Lacombe. Often, people must travel to Red Deer to make the next step of their journey. This can be an issue for some residents, who may not be able to drive or have access to a vehicle.
Barron said Victim Services does have a small emergency fund to assist in these situations.
“If a person doesn’t drive or has no way of transport, we can sometimes arrange transport for them from Lacombe to Red Deer. For example, if it’s a domestic violence victim and they don’t drive but they really need the women’s shelter, we will get them there,” she said.
As well, people could become connected to Volunteer Link, either through Victim Services, Neighborhood Place or another referral. Volunteer Link is a connection of church volunteers that collect funds for emergency situations, as well as offer personal assistance to those in need. One of the major ways they can do this is by providing a means of transportation to people who need a ride to a doctor, grocery store, social service or even court.
In Lacombe, the connectivity of the agencies is extremely developed. Oftentimes clients will be referred to one or many of the services, to learn that each organization has a connection to the next.
This kind of community-mindedness and connectivity allows Lacombians a better chance at working through distressing issues, officials say, adding there are services available in the City but as the population grows development in these areas is crucial.