Lacombe is lucky to have such a connected and engaged community that supports organizations such as Neighborhood Place.
Neighborhood Place is a not-for-profit agency that facilitates a number of services, and helps to connect members of the community to services they might need to access. They service a wide variety of community members, from issues of immigration to domestic violence, to consolation after the loss of a loved one.
“We help individuals and families find the information they’re looking for. We work with them and with the other groups and agencies helping these people,” said Executive Director Barb Walker.
“The most important thing we do is to just listen to people so we can determine together what is best. I can talk to them and see what kind of counselling services they need. It is important to get to under-lying needs, and very often we get a better picture of what the individual or family needs just by having a conversation. It’s amazing what you can learn from just visiting.”
A person might choose to access Neighborhood Place for a number of reasons – new to the area, in an abusive relationship, looking for parental or child support services or even looking for help in employment issues.
Neighborhood Place often is a place to connect a person to a service. People can come in with a number of issues, and the staff will try to help as much as they can and then will connect a person to their next step in terms of services. They rely closely on partnerships with other agencies to provide services in-house.
“We share an office space for Big Brothers Big Sisters and Volunteer Link, so we can direct people there easily, and we have our career and community closet to offer,” Walker said.
“We also have visiting counselling from Central Alberta Refugee Effort (CARE), the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter (CAWES) and Women’s outreach, and sometimes employment placement services for people with difficulties. Those people will come in from Red Deer upon request and all services are free.”
As with the counselling services, all services provided by Neighborhood Place are free of charge.
Community connections are an integral part of Neighborhood Place’s operation. On the first Tuesday of each month, several members of the community gather for an inter-agency meeting that allows conversation and connections to flow.
“On average, I’d say we have 25 people attend. People attend and it’s a fairly straightforward way to put names and services and people together. That way, when we work with individuals we can send them to a person, not just a place,” said Walker.
Walker’s position within the agency is unique in that she provides an outlet for community needs and wants to be heard. For example, the agency now hosts an annual ‘Walk for Wellness’ in support of mental health awareness, after the issue came forth from a citizen.
“Someone came to me and suggested that we do a walk for suicide prevention and mental health wellness. That came from working directly with the community to see what they’re missing. We’re always trying to find the gaps and address those,” Walker explained.
This year’s annual Walk for Wellness and Suicide Prevention will take place on Sept. 13th at the Lacombe Memorial Centre. Several events are included and all are free of fees.
For that event, doors open at 3 p.m. with refreshments and resource tables. A program of speakers will present from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., when the actual walk begins. After the walk, community members are invited to a community barbeque at the LMC.
“Something else I have done in that line is bring the CAWES director here and we went and talked to a health clinic here. We talked to all of the frontline workers about what domestic violence looks like, and how to react and how to help that,” Walker said.
“A follow-up of that is to check in with the clinics and see what information they’re looking for. They know what people will look at and take home.
Neighborhood Place operates in the same facility as Big Brothers Big Sisters and Volunteer Link. The three agencies often work hand-in-hand to address the needs of clients.
For example, a person might come into Neighborhood Place seeking some employment assistance. They could access the community and career closet for free clothing, access some information on available jobs in the area and potentially even connect with a Volunteer Link volunteer to bring that person to an interview.
The close community relationships are an integral part of Neighborhood Place. Without the connections and constant discussion between agencies, the referral services and connections of Neighborhood Place would not exist.
“We share information, share contacts, build programs and awareness and build relationships between different agencies,” Walker said.
The facility is equipped with a housing board to display current available housing, a wall of information pamphlets for people to take home and friendly staff willing to connect a person to their community.
The Neighborhood Place web site recently was redone and offers a full list of services and programs for information. Connect with them at www.lacombenp.com.