Moncton's YMCA ReConnect shifts focus to street intervention

After being told in March they had to vacate the Moncton building where they ran the ReConnect Street Intervention Program, staff took a hard look at what they were doing and made some changes.

After losing their own home, staff see that one-on-one interventions had biggest impact on homeless

Greater Moncton ReConnect Street Intervention Program will adopt a new way of operating, says interim director, Lisa Ryan. (Serge Martin/Report Card on Homelessness)

After being told in March they had to vacate the Moncton building where they ran the ReConnect Street Intervention Program, staff took a hard look at what they were doing and made some changes.

Lisa Ryan, interim director for the YMCA's ReConnect, said uncertainty about whether the drop-in centre could even continue as it was had forced staff to re-evaluate the program, which helps homeless people and those at risk of being homeless.

Faced with the major challenge of finding a place for a new drop-in centre, the group reviewed 2017 statistics to see where the program had the most impact. 

"It was very apparent that our street intervention saw a 50 per cent increase in 2017, so that's where we decided to aim our focus," Ryan said. 

Change of focus

With two outreach staff walking the street, people in crisis were identified as well as those sleeping rough — either outside or in unsafe situations —  the increase came from those interactions. 

"That number, just so that we're aware, was over 2,000 interactions in the year of 2017 in the city of Moncton in the downtown core." 

After deciding to re-evaluate things, Ryan said, she contacted an outreach program in Montreal.

"[We] quickly realized that when you move into more of a street intervention outreach standpoint, you're actually breaking down barriers for individuals. 

"People, if they need to access help, it's very hard for them to want to walk into a building. It's much easier to meet a person where they are and offer your assistance there." 

Ryan said workers will now have more time to sit and listen to what an individual needs and assist with problems that emerge through those conversations.

"I think we're going to be able to really target that aspect of what we do, and as well take the time to connect the individuals to the services that they really need." 

New partnerships 

Ryan said there are other organizations that can help. 

When it come to the question of the drop-in centre, the YMCA is considering having decentralized drop-ins at various locations around the city. 

"We still feel that there is benefit to a drop-in," Ryan said. "Individuals need to know there's a safe place they can go."  

Decentralized drop-in centres will be created with partnerships, says Ryan, and more clients will be approached out on the street. (Redmond Shannon/CBC)

She added that ReConnect is going to have to get creative with how it makes that work.

"It's a work in progress and we're working really hard to make sure that in the next two weeks we're up and running. 

The last date the drop-in centre operated was April 30.

"The reaction was very sombre," Ryan said of the closure of the centre. "We had a lot of tears." 

Support still there

The centre was considered a second home to many who used it and they were upset it closed.

The program will be doing followup to show clients that, while things are changing, the support is still there.

 Staff are ready for challenge, Ryan said.

"My hope is the impact we have on the city will increase."