Alona Puehse is the director of public relations and corporate development at Open Door Group. This letter is in response to Marc Lawrence’s article, “Open Door Shut,” published in the July 18 issue of Megaphone.
On April 2, 2012, Open Door Group, working with 12 other partners agencies, opened the doors to the new WorkBC Employment Services Centre at 112 West Hastings to deliver the Employment Program of BC. The Program is focused on assisting people to secure employment opportunities or in some cases, connect with their community through volunteering.
At the centre, we offer a fully staffed resource room, access to computers and the internet, phones, up-to-date job boards, workshops, and assistance from resource attendants. People are welcome to use these services, whether they prefer to guide their own employment search or if they prefer to have some assistance from staff at the centre. In addition, we also offer one- to-one services for people who may need more in-depth services and planning to move towards and gaining employment. This means connecting with someone one-on-one who will work with you to develop a plan, based on your individual needs to secure employment.
We work with local resources to provide access to tools that can support people in their job search – including supports like Community Voicemail for people who may not have phone and access to clothing supports. For people who are seeking employment, many of the referral services that were delivered by Pathways continue to be delivered. We also help people navigate and connect to other community resources who may be in need of supports such as housing and health services.
For people that may be unfamiliar with Open Door Group, I think it’s important to know a bit about us and what it means to us to be able to serve job seekers who live in the Downtown Eastside community.
Since 1976, Open Door Group (formerly THEO BC), has operated as a non-profit organization and charity that serves people with disabilities, individuals living with mental illness, people living with health challenges including substance dependency, and people facing multiple barriers to finding work—barriers that could include access to housing, health, social and economic supports. Although a lot has changed over the past three decades, we have always strived to stay true to our core values of client-centered services and respect for all individuals and serving over 4,000 people each year—whether that’s working together to find a paid job, a volunteer opportunity, gain access to training or connect to community supports.
In delivering the Employment Program of BC, we are working with 12 other organizations to provide services to the diverse range of individuals that are seeking services through the Program. Some of these organizations include including Immigrant Services Society of BC, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., La Boussole for Francophone job seekers, ACCESS Aboriginal services, Neil Squire Society and several more.
One of our top priorities has been to make services as accessible as possible—to all people that reside in the Downtown Eastside community. To do this, we’re continuing to meet and talk with people who live and work in the community, connecting with groups and local committees to discuss how we can make the program more accessible. Taking the approach of collaborative discussion has resulted in some additional points of access for people to receive services.
For example, in addition to the main Employment Centre at Hastings and Abbott, we also offer services at ACCESS as well as Pacific Coast Resource Society’s youth centre. We have partnered with the Downtown Community Courts, and starting this month (July), have a case manager working onsite at the courts to connect with people who may benefit from the program. We also have offsite services through Battered Women’s Support Services for female survivors of violence and have connected with groups like PEERS to share knowledge with our staff about working with former sex trade workers and helping to meet their needs in moving towards employment.
We are in the process of making services available at 390 Main as a sort of “satellite” office, co-locating with ACCESS at Hastings and Main, for people who are thinking about starting their journey towards employment. We continue to do outreach and welcome opportunities to work with other groups and agencies to help meet the needs of people looking to start their journey toward employment.
So to Mr. Lawrence, I apologize for any negative experience you may have had in your past interaction with our organization, and I welcome you to contact me directly to provide your feedback and input.
Our goal, along with all of the organizations that are working together to deliver this program, is to help people from all backgrounds and experiences, move towards gaining employment and connecting to their community.
If you are interested in learning more about the services available at Open Door Group or the Employment Program of BC, please come by and visit us, phone us at 604 872 0770 or email [email protected].