Have you ever heard of the PEERS Program?
PEERS — Pathways to Engagement and Employment Readiness — is a local resource managed by Kootenay Career Development Society (KCDS) in partnership with Career Development Society and Nelson Cares Society — that works with individuals who are unhoused or at risk of homelessness and facing significant barriers to employment.
“It’s helped me get out of my slump, helped me get back working with people again,” a PEERS participant shares. “It’s brought hope back into my head, and structure and learning things that I find helpful.”
PEERS and other tangential services came to the forefront at Trail city hall last week when representatives from the societal partnership made a virtual presentation at the Monday night council meeting, and provided city officials a snapshot of their services available in Trail, Castlegar and Nelson.
Jocelyn Carver, KCDS executive director, began by outlining employment services the society provides to support residents in finding and sustaining employment. As well, the society supports employers to find and keep employees.
Malorie Moore, service accessibility manager, followed, providing an overview of the PEERS program, funded by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training; which involves a safe and non-judgemental approach to flexible employment opportunities that are non-punitive and strength-based.
Essentially, a PEERS participant is matched to a local business. So far nine local organizations/businesses have hosted a PEERS placement, and all nine said they’d do it again.
“The person that was helping us really enjoyed their connection here,” a PEERS placement host said. “They commented that it was really good for them to spend some time with ‘normal’ people doing ‘normal’ things. We made a new friend and were able to help folks in the community that really need it.”
Geanine Gerrow, PEERS lead, reviewed how the program approaches the development of client relations. She spoke about the success of the peer placement program, which is relationship focused with long-term support.
“I went from being homeless to having a place to live,” said another PEERS participant, one of 32 involved so far. “I have gotten full time sustainable employment and lessened the stresses of not having enough income. The program has helped my perception of life and made me a happier person. I don’t feel lost anymore.”
KCDS, a nonprofit based in the Trail WorkBC Centre at 1499 Bay Ave., has an active client list of more than 2,300 people.
To read the full KCDS presentation to Trail council visit: trail.ca.
After the Zoom delegation signed off, the in-person public question period began.
First up was Donovan Brown, a property owner in Trail. He voiced concerns about “the degradation of downtown streets” and asked for an update about the relocation of the shelter. “Current council’s mandate is not merely to find a new location for the shelter, it’s the public expectation that the downtown gets cleaned up of crime, drug use … I understand it’s about funding and that handcuffs many communities … my concern is that I don’t want Trail to become an industry to homelessness … in order for Trail to be able to facilitate programs (to help unhoused/homeless individuals), we’ve got to have thriving businesses.”
Brown suggested that the shelter should revert to an eight-bed, extreme weather operation.
To clarify, in the fall of 2022, Trail council approved a one-year renewal for a temporary use permit, allowing the downtown Trail shelter to continue housing up to 18 individuals nightly for one more year. Part of this agreement included the city actively work with BC Housing to find a suitable alternate location for the shelter outside of downtown.
Next up was Gord Fischer, property owner of 1500 Cedar Ave. Fischer said that earlier in the day, he went by his property and found an encampment in an adjacent alcove, as well as evidence of a fire. (Fischer provided council with photos) Fischer said his outreach to the RCMP, municipal bylaw enforcement, the fire department, and Career Development Services hadn’t brought about a satisfactory resolution as neither police nor bylaw enforcement remove (encampment debris) from private property. Beyond frustrated, Fischer said he decided to address Trail council, so it was serendipitous that a council meeting was scheduled for that night.
Fischer said that over the past few years, he and his wife had removed “squatters” up to 75 times, so far without incident. But he said this is the first time dealing with an encampment/fire endangering his property.
“I am at my wit’s end,” he said. “My tax bill is substantial … at this point (feeling) hopeless because we can’t get any action as a taxpayer.”
He mentioned the vulnerable population and hearing within the community that the matter in downtown Trail becomes “a little worse” each passing week.
“I want to add us — the taxpayer — to the (list) of the most vulnerable,” Fischer concluded.
After Fischer came Rich Steer, a Trail resident. He encouraged council to advocate for the return of retail businesses to the city. Steer mentioned the Hudson’s Bay Company recently announcing the (limited) return of the Zellers brand in 2023.
Lastly was Marty Makway. Makway, a Trail resident, addressed council about correspondence she had sent to the mayor and copied to council members without receiving a response. She asked if there was a time frame for mayor/council to acknowledge the receipt of letters/correspondence and when a response could be expected.
First-term Coun. Nick Cashol asked Mayor Colleen Jones if he could respond to what was brought up in public question time.
The mayor replied that the public question period is commentary only (no dialogue).
From there, council approved a request from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), wherein the RDKB apply for, receive and manage grant money through the Community Resiliency Investment program; deliver the FireSmart program; and develop a Community Wildfire Resiliency Plan.