Care and recovery centres supporting wildfire victims
The centres are located in Barrington and Shelburne
Support continues to evolve in Shelburne County for victims of the Barrington Lake wildfire.
The former Visitor Information Centre in the Municipality of Barrington is now a Care and Recovery Centre with the aim being to help those impacted by the wildfire on multiple levels.
“The idea is to continue to give the folks who have been impacted by the fire – but also for folks who are looking for a sense of community – a place to go and access resources,” says Amy MacKinnon, executive director of Our House Youth Wellness Centre. “The spectrum of support can be anything from just wanting to come into a comfy place to chat and connect or needing something concrete.”
The non-profit organization has been working tirelessly from day one helping the wildfire victims, which first started out with free stores at the Sandy Wickens Memorial Arena in Barrington and St. Ann's Church in Shelburne. The Shelburne location is now in the former Municipality of Shelburne administrative building on Hammond Street.
Both free stores have morphed into care and recovery centres, where free things, such as clothing and food can still be found, and, most recently, access to grants through funding from the United Way and the Royal Bank of Canada.
“We just launched a granting aspect to our work so folks can apply for funding for certain replacement things,” says MacKinnon.
“As with all of our work, we keep that low barrier. We're not helping people who have insurance or who are not insured. It's about the need. It's not about meeting a certain criteria," she says.
"We know there are people who just need help paying a bill so they can get caught up. Maybe they've already purchased something and could really use to be reimbursed for that fridge or that thing," she explains. "We feel we are at a stage now where we are looking at do you need more help. We can't necessarily provide a place to live, but do you need a damage deposit and first month's rent? There's no cookie-cutter model to it and everybody's needs are going to be different.”
The Care and Recovery Centre in Barrington was opened on July 19. It and the
one in Shelburne will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (except for the Shelburne Friday hours, which are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
“It is our hope the centre will give people a place of belonging,” says MacKinnon. “One of the things that came from those first two weeks of relief work was that people really enjoyed being together. People took a lot of comfort in the friendships and bonds that they made, not just with evacuees, but with volunteers who were working there."
But then it just "kind of went away," she says, so they're hoping to bring some of that back to those
who are really missing this sense of connections in the community.
“We know there are people who are isolated. We know there are people who are still not comfortable or understand what kind of help is out there. We hope to be able to fill the gaps," she says, noting even organizations like the Red Cross have gaps. "People who don't fit the criteria... people who aren't going to get served, but in this situation there shouldn't be. Everybody should be able to have access to support.”
MacKinnon says Our
House Youth Wellness Centre had great support from the United Way to get the care
and recovery centre off the ground.
“They have these neighbourhood hubs, they call them in HRM. This is going to be like that. Already we have someone from the TriCounty Women's Centre, Jacqueline Chetwynd, she works on trauma and grief. She's going to be here," MacKinnon says. "It's a place for other community members and service providers to also use. We have lots of space to share for other community groups who want to run programs.”
Our House is still actively looking for volunteers to help out at the care and recovery centres.
"We will be getting settled for another month, we're still unpacking,” she says. “We've been asked if we're going to be doing any programming. That might be something that can be run by volunteers. We can provide space, you provide the people. We really want the community to take advantage of this because the council also wants to see there is a need. There's lots of great buzz.”
Plus, as an organization
Our House has “other areas of work we have to focus on too,” says MacKinnon so they still have to devote much attention to that. “We're a youth-driven organization. We have to make sure we're looking after our primary care focus.”