A $45,000 provincial grant is going to convert what are now informal conversations held by local social services agencies and government bodies into something more formal.
It’s called a situation table, a group that meets regularly to determine which agency is best suited to respond quickly to situations where individuals or families could either commit criminal offences or be victims of such events or other tramatic circumstances.
The grant was applied for last year by the District of Houston after hearing a presentation from the crime reduction and gang outreach office, which is part of the public safety and solicitor general ministry.
It’s a lump sum to purchase whatever equipment might be needed, for training and to employ a part time chair.
So far, the $45,000 is a one-time sum but situation tables can apply for more money as circumstances develop.
Ideally, a situation table is made up of representatives from local non-profit social services agencies, appropriate community groups, a police force, health agencies and agencies that work with First Nations people.
In communities where situation tables already exist, representatives meet once a week.
Confidentiality is a key provision within the conduct of the tables.
District of Houston chief administrative officer Michael Dewar said it will be providing administrative support as the table gets off the ground.
”We are definitely looking forward to learning as we progress and seeing how the program can contribute to our community,” he said.
Marian Els from Houston Link to Learning, which supported the District of Houston application last year, is pleased the grant was approved.
“We are looking forward to being a part of this important program for Houston, said Els. “Individuals in crisis often need more support than one agency can provide. The situation table enables agencies to come together and provide wrap around services in a safe and confidential environment.”
“Multiple services can partner and work together to provide better options and services. It doesn’t change the services that are available but it does provide a confidential mechanism for us to communicate with each other.”
“We are hopeful that this will get going in Houston very soon, our community needs this,” Els added.
Karen Hutton, the coordinator of family support services for the Houston Community Services Association, said group sessions such as a situation table will help meet the needs of its clients.
“I also feel that it will help identify the gaps in services and how these can be met with the experience, resources and knowledge from all participating agencies,” she said.
Since 2017, the province has spent more than $1.2 million on new tables or on existing ones. For the provincial financial year ending March 31, the province sent more than $230,000 to eight communities.
There are 15 situation tables operating in B.C., with work underway on nine more.