Chilliwack is leading the way in providing services to its most vulnerable, says Mary McNeil, minister of children and family development.
She was blown away by the collaboration at both sites.
“If we can do more of what you guys in Chilliwack are already doing, we’re going to be able to provide way better services and be way more efficient with our money,” said McNeil.
The Village is a supportive housing community for adults and teens at risk of homelessness, which is provided through a partnership between Chilliwack Community Services, Creative Centre Society, City of Chilliwack, and the provincial government.
Central Gateway for Families, located at Central elementary, is also a community partnership between Chilliwack Community Services, Fraser Health, University of the Fraser Valley and Chilliwack school district to provide literacy programs for parents and their children.
It was that program McNeil was most impressed with.
“When I got there and they started talking about [Gateway] so passionately as though they were selling it to me, I’m going my god, this is exactly what I would really like to have happen,” she said.
“It’s where I’ve been heading for awhile in my head … it’s exactly what I would really like to see more of happening all around the province.”
McNeil liked that Gateway was part of the school hub.
“Too often schools are used for too short a time, but they have an ability to do so much more – and that’s what these guys are doing,” said McNeil.
“The more we can use our schools … the better we will be.”
McNeil believes it’s the different partnerships collaborating that have made Gateway so successful. She strives to emulate that in other communities.
“My budget is $1.331 billion dollars … it’s a status quo budget in a demand-driven industry, which means we have to provide our services to whoever needs it, not just to a certain number every year,” said McNeil. “That’s tough, especially in the economic environment we’re in. We need to collaborate.
“Chilliwack,” she said, “already saw this seven years ago, and put something in place – that’s impressive.”