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This article was published 7/3/2016 (2143 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In a sense, Nina Condo understands what many of her clients go through as they take steps to bring stability to their lives.
The executive director of the Elmwood Community Resource Centre (ECRC) has spent her nearly two years on the job looking for a permanent home for an agency which has had several temporary ones over the last decade. That leaves her with less time to help people.
Many of the people Condo and the 18 ECRC staff serve are also working to find some permanency in their lives, whether that be through reliable housing, stable employment or the meeting of other basic needs. Often it is all of the above.
Since last July the ECRC has been located in a City of Winnipeg building at 545 Watt St. It is a big improvement over their previous location at 200 Levis St., which was hidden behind another building, the fence topped with barbed wire.
"When I started I met with a couple of families who said they didn’t even know the ECRC was there," Condo said. "It was a closed facility."
In a few short months the new site has already allowed the ECRC to extends its hours and deliver more programs, Condo said.
Shortly after she began, Condo initiated an environmental scan of the Elmwood community to determine who lived there and what they need.
She discovered a high number of single-parent families and many children living in poverty. Crime rates in some areas were high.
But those numbers do not accurately portray the community Condo sees every day.
"The community comes together," Condo said. "They are welcoming and work together to support others."
The ECRC offers a offers a wide range of programs to meet the myriad of needs the community has, and that includes the basic, Condo explained. Each spring, 32 community garden boxes transform what had been an abandoned railway track into a gathering place where neighbours enjoy barbecues and grow their own food. Anyone interested just has to call the ECRC to reserve a box.
While they wait for the harvest, people can register for the BAG (Better Access to Groceries) program which provides a $10 bag of produce twice per month. BAG is run through a partnership with the Chalmers Neighborhood Renewal Corporation and several other community groups.
Area youth benefit from several programs, Condo said. Among those programs is Youth in Elmwood Arts and Recreation (YEAR), an after school drop-in program providing multi-cultural teaching, nutrition, life skills and art classes provided by Art City. YEAR runs after school on weekdays between 4 and 8 p.m. and expands to six days per week in the summer.
"We have 167 kids in the program and 15 to 20 kids come every day after school," Condo said.
A highlight of the program in 2015 was an art show where the children got to display and sell their work, she added.
Youth up to 30 in need of employment assistance can join Elmwood Youth
Employment Experience (EYEE), Condo said. Under the tutelage of a job coach, students develop a resume, conduct a job search, meet with local employers and find work. Should issues arise that could impact their employment, an outreach worker helps the person address those issues while maintaining their job.
The ECRC also helps people develop skills which can help them land better-paying and in many cases more fulfilling jobs, Condo said.
Through a satellite location at 75 Brazier St., GOAL, a free program, offers GED preparation, basic computer and math skills, and personalized programs to meet individual goals, Condo said.
GOAL provides a perfect illustration of how the ECRC works with community partners, Condo said. When addressing literacy, they consult a working group made up of representatives from the Munroe Library, ACCESS Henderson, the Salvation Army and several other organizations.
"They suggest improvements," Condo said. "We also promote each other’s programs and refer people to the most appropriate ones."
The ECRC also receives help from other groups such as Riverwood and Holy Eucharist churches who lend the larger spaces for special events such as Breakfast with Santa and the upcoming International Women’s Day event on March 9 at Holy Eucharist’s Parish Centre.
The reason the ECRC concentrates on core needs is because that is the only way people can build better lives for themselves, Condo said.
"If you don’t have those basic needs met, you can’t survive."
"If I have other stressors at home that are not being addressed I won’t be able to be on time or I will be stressed at work." Condo explained. "I won’t maintain that long-term sustainability I am trying to create for myself."
The ECRC is funded by 11 organizations including the United Way, The Winnipeg Foundation and several government departments. Call 204-982-1720 or visit www.elmwoodcrc.ca for more information.
Community correspondent - East Kildonan
Tony Zerucha is a community correspondent for East Kildonan. Email him at email@example.com