The District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board (TBDSSAB) supports people to improve their lives and become self-sufficient. We do this as the service system manager for vital, quality social services needed by individuals and families living in the District of Thunder Bay, including childcare and early years, community housing, homelessness prevention programs and through the delivery of Ontario Works.
Over the past five years TBDSSAB has worked to create community resource centres for tenants and clients, creating centralized access for neighbourhood engagement and service enhancement.
The resource centre is a dedicated unit within the neighbourhood that provides a variety of services and supports to the households in the area. The resource centres provide direct access and support for social assistance, housing matters and child care/early learning needs, along with connection and referral to community partners' services.
Three resource centres have been operating within highly populated family housing neighourhoods, and one within a multi-unit all-ages building, with the intention of making services available at the site for health, wellness, and housing stability. Information on all services provided through TBDSSAB are offered at the resource centres and both drop-in and individual appointments are offered.
Resource centres in family housing neighbourhoods offer a focus on food security, including working within community gardens and community kitchens and weekly food markets for purchase at reduced pricing. Other services include medical access via a nurse practitioner, local health unit support, healthy kids’ sites, harm reduction supplies and support referrals for mental health and addictions programming, cultural programming opportunities and employment supports. The resource centre in the all-ages building offers direct access and support for social assistance, housing matters, community kitchens, harm reduction supplies and supports, along with connection and referral to services through community partners.
Over the past year, services developed and provided at the resource centres have been augmented and highly promoted to encourage participation and client/tenant involvement. The services and supports available from TBDSSAB's Social Assistance, Child Care and Early Years, and Housing programs at the resource centres have been enhanced. This reflects a strong partnership between programs under the Integrated Social Services portfolio to ensure wrap-around services to address clients' needs within the community.
On a scheduled basis, staff from TBDSSAB's Integrated Social Services programs attend at the resource centres and meet with service recipients with the goal of delivering integrated support to tenants close to home. Additional services include life skills sessions, community kitchens, community gardens, access to computers, printers and the internet, and provision of space for community partner organizations to offer services.
Social assistance recipients who live in each neighbourhood have one caseworker who is on site one day a week. While on site at the resource hubs, the caseworker can provide all the usual social assistance-related services, including applications, updates and other case management activities. The Social Assistance employment team is also on site monthly to provide support at community kitchens with food budgeting information, financial empowerment sessions and to support employment needs. Services are delivered directly to recipients where they are rather than them needing to come to the office or other site. Clients respond that they appreciate that relationships between clients/caseworkers are being strengthened.
In 2021, TBDSSAB announced the addition of technology hubs to the three tenant resource centres located in family neighbourhoods. Another two tech hubs were added to an all-ages and seniors building in 2022.
The tech hubs offer space in a housing unit retrofitted to act as a computer lab for tenants and service recipients to access close to home. The tech hubs provide access to computers and an internet connection for clients, tenants, and anyone in the neighbourhood. Each hub is open to the public during scheduled operating hours. TBDSSAB staff also host on-site workshops and training. With many services providing online access, it was important to be able to facilitate access to those without devices or internet service.
The vision for implementing these technology hubs was identified in TBDSSAB's 2020-2023 strategic plan. The technology hubs have been a group effort involving expertise in client supports and technology setup from both TBDSSAB’s Integrated Social Services and Corporate Services divisions, respectively.
In addition to the Integrated Social Services team, community partner organizations are also invited to offer support and services from the neighbourhood resource centres.
Services offered through community partners include medical access via a nurse practitioner, local health unit support, healthy kids sites, harm reduction supplies and support referrals for mental health and addictions programming, cultural programming opportunities and employment supports. The list of services and participating organizations grows each year.
TBDSSAB and Community Partners have designated days at each resource hub to keep the schedule organized. The calendar of events for each resource centre is shared monthly, with community partners taking the lead on posting calendars for the resource centres they are more heavily involved in.
Feedback from individuals accessing the resource centres has been overwhelmingly positive, with many stating they appreciate the convenience of being able to access supports without needing to travel to the TBDSSAB office. Through engagement with our community partner organizations, enhanced referrals are realized, often resulting in greater stability for the clients/tenants involved. Tenants in these neighbourhoods have shown increased engagement with the community services offered.
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Ken Ranta (he/him) is the Director of Integrated Social Services for the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board (TBDSSAB). In this role, he is responsible for the delivery of Social Assistance and Employment Programs, Child Care and Early Years Programs and Community Housing Programs, throughout the District of Thunder Bay. It is the vision of TBDSSAB to provide quality services within the context of a commitment to social justice and recognition of people’s potential to achieve self-sufficiency.