Our Community Partners Program in words and pictures
LSS has a network of community partners throughout BC. Our community partners stretch from Fort Nelson in the north down to Abbotsford in the south, and from Haida Gwaii in the west to Cranbrook in the east. North to south, the drive is 19 hours according to Google Maps, and east to west, the trip takes about 28 hours by car and ferry.
In 2011, LSS began offering “micro-contracts” to existing organizations such as women’s centres and Aboriginal organizations. These contracts allowed these organizations to supplement their services by providing legal information, referrals, and support.
Community Partners don’t take legal aid applications, but they help people with their applications – helping them get their supporting documents together and often sitting with them and helping them during their application to the call centre.
The program has grown to 27 partnerships across 35 communities that range in size from just a few hundred people to tens of thousands. Last year, we added seven new community partners that are providing services in 13 new locations.
In 2013, we asked people who used our community partners what they thought about the program. For many of them, the community partners were the only place they knew to get help:
“I don't know how my legal issues would be resolved without the assistance of this program. Before this program, I felt like I was searching for assistance without finding any. I felt frustrated knowing that my child was in a position of vulnerability and I could not find anyone to talk to. I searched many organizations, including non-profit groups, the police, and even churches and nobody knew how to help me.”
One of my favourite stories about the positive and lasting impact community partners make is about our community partner in Chilliwack:
Our partner in Chilliwack travels to Hope once a month to help clients in the area. She has two spaces that she uses in Hope. One of these spaces is a housing project. This project is supported housing for people who are chronically homeless or at risk of being homeless. It’s about a 30-minute walk to downtown Hope and some clients have difficulty getting in to town to receive services, so she goes to them.
Many of the residents have issues with drugs or alcohol or mental health issues and get themselves into difficulties with the law. Not only that, but they have trust issues with anyone in a position of authority. Through our community partner’s work, the people at the project have learned how they can access legal help. When she visits now, they call her the “Legal Lady” and come to her with their problems, asking where they should go or who they should call.
This partnership has allowed us to reach clients we couldn’t before. These clients can access and navigate the system more easily and they now know of someone to come to if they have any questions.
--Lynn McBride, Community Partner Coordinator