For a year, Tracy Dansereau was homeless and feeling alone, unaware of the many aid organizations in Greater Victoria which could have helped her out.
She eventually connected with those organizations and now is helping to make sure other marginalized members of the community are aware of all the supports which are available to them as part of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness. On Tuesday (Aug. 23), many of those organizations were set up at Royal Athletic Park for the Project Reconnect service fair, bringing them all to one location where community members could learn more about them and take advantage of services like foot care, medical testing, and even a professional portrait photographer on the spot.
“Having this connection between the service providers allows the community to see what’s available,” said Dansreau. “Help is out there to support you in whatever – recovery, finding a home, harm reduction, mental health. Whatever is causing problems in your life, there is an answer here, there are people who will help.”
The annual service fair made its return for the first time since the pandemic put a hold on such events, as well as interrupted many of the services provided by the participating organizations. Dansreau said given the challenges of the pandemic and the rise in the unhoused population which has come with it, the fair is even more important than in previous years.
Terry Edison-Brown, co-chair of the Downtown Service Providers Committee which has put on the fair since 2008, said many at-risk people are not aware of the supports available in the community, or they may have inaccurate information about them, and the organizations themselves have in the past operated in silos rather than in concert. The event serves as a large networking event to bring the community and the organizations which serve it together.
“There are so many organizations, and misinformation is so common … here people can go directly to each organization and find out exactly what they do and how you can get their help,” said Edison-Brown. “I can say as a service provider myself that after one of these events, we get much more intake in our programming.”
For Dansreau, the single most important message the event is trying to get out into the community is that you are never alone, and there is always someone there to help you if you know where to look.
“It tells people in the marginalized community that they are not alone, and that’s the biggest thing for people having issues in their lives, that feeling of being alone and helpless.”