Getting charities and businesses working together

“Private industry and everything else outside of the not-for-profit world, they are selling a product in order to make money. We’re using money to support people.”

In motel room WEB SIZE.jpgThat’s the assessment from Ryan, Clements Centre’s manager of quality assurance.

You might think that means charities and businesses are incompatible.

But Clements Centre in Duncan has been working on a recipe for success that has it partnering with not just another charity, but two companies in town as well, and solving some significant problems in the community.

That’s being accomplished with some key guiding principles, and with United Way funding through the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.

Clements Centre works with children and adults with developmental needs and their families. But the housing crisis, fires and flooding mean that many of these adult community members are losing their homes. This puts them beyond the scope of Clements Centre’s usual support, or unable to do what’s needed to reach that support.

However, with United Way funding, Clements Centre has acted by creating new partnerships to reach these community members in need.

One of those partnerships is with Lookout Housing & Health Society’s outreach team.

“Typically, as outreach workers, we give out harm reduction supplies, and we can refer people to doctors and things like that, but as far as the practical necessities that people need to keep warm and dry, we don’t have a lot that we can give out that way,” says James, and outreach worker with Lookout.

This is even though there is a known need in the community for items like sleeping bags, tarps, warm clothing and more for those living on the street or in the bush, he says.

But, through United Way funding and a partnership with Clements Centre, James now has access to those items and more, and can provide them to people who thought they had been forgotten by society, many of whom have a developmental delay or mental health issue.

“It’s giving people a little bit of hope that someone out there actually cares, because most people feel like no one cares, like nothing would change if they died or if they didn’t,” says James.

“[It’s caused an] absolutely monumental positive impact. Incredible.”

A new partnership between Clements Centre and Seabreeze Laundry is also making it possible for those receiving things like sleeping bags and blankets to keep them, by providing the opportunity to clean and dry these items.

Clements Centre keeps a tab open at the laundromat, allowing anyone in need access to washers and dryers. Since this partnership, James says he hasn’t seen these items discarded as they might be if they were wet and heavy, and folks had no way to clean and dry them.

A third partnership with Duncan Motel is helping Clements Centre to keep their community members from ending up on the street in the first place.

“Somebody comes in and they are at the bottom, the bottom of the barrel,” says Tracy, manager of the Duncan Motel. “They’ve had enough, they are cold, they’re tired, they're hungry, they come in and you see them kind of change and that little bit of a spark come back.”

Key to this partnership and others is staying in regular communication, say Ryan and Tracy, and being available to support community members, businesses owners and employees to keep things running smoothly.

While a willingness to help is needed for the partnership to work, Ryan says the partnership shouldn’t impact the businesses’ ability to make money, nor demand too many resources.

“I get somebody in here that’s good, they are well behaved and they are honestly making an effort, I’ll reduce the rate,” says Tracy. “But for a business, I’m still running it like a business. We are still making money.”  

“If I can support you [Tracy] financially to get the outcome you want, and my people outcome is still met, that’s collaborative,” says Ryan. “That’s us reaching the same goal we both want, and the community benefits from it.”

United Way is proud to help make these partnerships possible.

“Without the United Way, without the funding … it’s just a dream,” says Ryan.

United Way British Columbia provides funding for this program and many others through the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.

But efforts like this can only succeed when communities support them. So please, if you can, consider donating to United Way British Columbia today, and/or speak out in support of projects like these to your friends, neighbours, and elected representatives.