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Help needed for new homelessness initiative in Northumberland

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

Cobourg therapist Mark Vander Vennen who leads a WrapAround program in Hamilton is helping to establish one with the Green Wood Coalition of Port Hope.Submitted photo

Cobourg therapist Mark Vander Vennen who leads a WrapAround program in Hamilton is helping to establish one with the Green Wood Coalition of Port Hope.Submitted photo

PORT HOPE -- Green Wood Coalition of Port Hope is looking for volunteers to be part of its expanded WrapAround program to help people with complex social needs and those who are homeless.

Co-ordinator Jenn McGuire says the local experience spurred the initiative.

"Green Wood has offered WrapAround on a very limited basis for the past five years," McGuire explained in an interview. "Our mentors at WrapAround Northumberland have been delivering the program with families for more than 20 years ,and they've had a great track record. We've seen good results from this approach and have been hoping to expand our ability to include more participants. When the opportunity to partner with Northumberland United Way came along, we saw an opportunity to build a stronger program that would serve single individuals with complex needs," she said.

Cobourg therapist Mark Vander Vennan will support the expanded initiative.

"WrapAround is a different way of working together to find solutions for people with complex needs," states the man who "leads a volunteer-run WrapAround program in Hamilton and will work with WrapAround Northumberland to support the new Green Wood initiative," according to a media release.

Vander Vennan explains the situation.

"Over the decades, we have offloaded the care of our most vulnerable to the professionals. But they are overburdened, and it has disempowered communities. If professional services and communities could leverage each other's strengths, the results would be better."

The possible solution is the WrapAround program that "takes an innovative, multi-sector approach that places control in the hands of those being helped," he said.

"The facilitator and participant forge a relationship and build a team from among people the person trusts. The team meets monthly to wrap around the participant, seeking solutions to the person's full spectrum of needs, which could include addiction, mental illness or physical or emotional challenges, along with the poverty, homelessness and isolation that often result. Over a year to 18 months, as new resources and practices are put in place, the individual becomes ready to transition out."

Volunteers are being sought to be facilitators and they don't have to be professional social workers.

"What they need is a good sense of humour, compassion, a rich set of life experiences and an ability to build consensus and see common ground when others can't," the release states.

Vander Vennan explains that these volunteer facilitators "are listening for the person's strengths, their needs and their culture. Over time, trust is developed. WrapAround gives people some control back in their life. It is about strengths, not deficits. It is a different paradigm."

To become involved contact MGuire at 905-885-8700 or jenn @greenwoodcoalition.com

"Our staff and members who have experienced high fidelity WrapAround believe strongly that it's the most effective approach to addressing complex social needs that we've seen. It focuses on the strength of the participant and helps them to build natural community," says McGuire.

Asked what will happen if the program doesn't get enough volunteers, she says three part-time staff will be taking the upcoming 25 hours of facilitator training in November.

vmacdonald@postmedia.com

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