The Ladysmith Resource Centre Association presented their 2020 annual report to Town Council on Tuesday August 3.
LRCA board president Vicky Stickwood-Hyslop made the presentation on behalf of the LRCA. Stickwood-Hyslop said that challenges posed by COVID-19 over 2020 and 2021 have shown the resiliency of LRCA who have continued to adapt programming to serve the community.
Stickwood-Hyslop highlighted the success of the LRCA’s food security programs such as the Ladysmith Food Bank, the LRCA soup kitchen, the Born Healthy program, food skills for families, and the LRCA gleaners project where volunteers gather fruit from trees in Ladysmith from residents who do not need or want the fruit for themselves.
COVID-19 forced much of the LRCA’s programming to go online. Programs like their early years, family and youth, support services, seniors services, volunteer counselling, victim services, and restorative justice all moved online.
“The unexpected to bonus to our staff and volunteers has been all the positive feedback and the ability of those who could not attend before in person now being able to attend virtually,” Stickwood-Hyslop said.
Stickwood-Hyslop highlighted the work of the seniors support services in making phone calls to local seniors to keep them connected to the community and combat the loneliness borne by the pandemic.
One of the programs that turned to the outdoors instead of online has been the LRCA’s Adventures in Early Literacy program. That program created the storybook walk in Brown Drive Park which has been tremendously popular with families and elementary schools in Ladysmith.
Throughout the pandemic, the LRCA has made many changes to their shelter services in Ladysmith as well. The LRCA operated a cold-weather shelter beneath the Rialto apartment building on 1st Avenue and Buller Street.
After COVID-19 arrived in Canada, it became clear that the LRCA’s existing shelter could not house many individuals and meet social distancing requirements. So, the LRCA operated an outdoor tenting site on Buller Street from May 2020 to October 2020 to give Ladysmith’s homeless population a place to shelter safely during the pandemic.
The latest update is that the LRCA has been operating a shelter in the lobby of the Island Hotel in partnership with BC Housing. The shelter has been in operation since May 2021.
“The demand and need for our housing support services — to provide housing coordination and access, housing loss prevention services… or to help with basic living support was even greater as our community struggled to stay afloat,” Stickwood-Hyslop said.
On the note of housing, Stickwood-Hyslop noted that the LRCA’s affordable housing project on Buller Street is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022. Once the building is complete, it will provide 36 units of affordable housing with a mix of studio, one and two-bedroom homes for people with moderate and low incomes.
Town councillors had many questions for the LRCA and requested more detailed data on a number of LRCA programs.
Councillor Duck Paterson asked Stickwood-Hyslop for detailed information on the LRCA’s Youth Services program to get a better picture of how many young people were being helped by the LRCA’s programs and what the LRCA is doing to support youth in Ladysmith.
Councillors Amanda Jacobson, Tricia McKay, Rob Jonhson and Marsh Stevens joined the call for detailed data on the LRCA’s programming to see how many residents were being helped by the LRCA’s various programs.
Jacobson and Stevens also asked for an update on the shelter at the Island Hotel, which is meant to be a temporary shelter during the pandemic.
Stevens, who previously served as board president and executive director for the LRCA, blasted the annual report for what he said was a lack of detailed information.
“We do a ton to support this organization to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ll concur with councillor Paterson and councillor McKay, the absence of data tonight is boggling to me. It’s in the service agreement quite plainly what programs are receiving money. I would think at the very least we’d get data on them.”
Mayor Aaron Stone stated several times that the annual report was meant to be a high-level summary of what the LRCA has accomplished over the past year, not a detailed look at data from all the LRCA’s programs.
Stickwood-Hyslop and LRCA executive director Karen Laing said they would compile the requested data and report back to council in the fall.
“Once we get our audited financial statements and absolutely by our Annual General Meeting which is September 15, we will have a full report on the LRCA in terms of the numbers of people that we serve and a breakdown in terms of community support and donations,” Laing said.