In many rural areas across the province of Ontario, basic social and health services are often not accessible without driving long distances. Havelock, one such rural area, needed a social services and health hub to provide multiple services in one location. The combination of isolation and the area’s high poverty rate increased the need for services to support people in need. According to Rosemary O’Donnell, manager of the Community Counselling Resource Centre (CCRC), some people spend as much as 70 to 80 percent of their income on housing. Many residents face barriers and risk factors contributing to chronic housing instability, making them more susceptible to homelessness – a situation worsened by lack of access to appropriate housing and services. Risk factors include low incomes, unemployment or precarious employment, lack of transportation, disabilities, age-related vulnerabilities, abuse, addictions, and physical and mental illness.
Previous attempts had been made by organizations within the City of Peterborough to do outreach and offer services in Havelock. Some of these organizations include the Housing Resource Centre (HRC), the Peterborough Community Legal Centre (PCLC), and other city-based organizations delivering services through the Training Education and Careers Havelock Centre (TEACH). Attempts by these organizations to deliver services in Havelock “have usually proven unsustainable due to the limited impact, capacity, and scope of any one service or organization” Some of the barriers faced by these organization relate to lack of space and resources.
Starting in 2015, a collaborative of organizations founded the Havelock Hub, located approximately 60 kilometres outside of Peterborough in the village of Havelock. The collaborative recognized the interrelated challenges faced by people living in rural areas—the particular needs and barriers of people living in eight diverse municipalities and two First Nations communities. The organizations and people who developed the hub worked hard to bring services to this underserved area and provide assistance to individuals and families who otherwise would not have access to such services. The hub, comprising 11 different organizations offering a variety of services to the Havelock area, opened as an 18-month pilot project at the end of February 2016. The hub operates out of the Havelock Medical Centre on a part-time basis.
Havelock Hub’s members include the CCRC (and its Housing Resource Centre, Credit and Community Counselling), the Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network (PPRN), City of Peterborough Social Services, the PCLC, YWCA Peterborough, Employment Planning and Counselling, Community Care, the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON), and the TEACH Centre. Since opening, the Havelock Food Bank, the John Howard Society, Kawartha Pine Ridge School Board and Trent/Fleming School of Nursing have joined the Collaborative. Members have an ongoing interest in the hub and have agreed to act as the initial governing body of the hub.
The organization’s Guiding Framework & Memorandum of Understanding states: “This project is designed as a pilot in order to study local needs, build relationships, create, test, and analyze logistics, correct deficiencies and make recommendations to the City and County for an ongoing service model that could be replicated in other County locations.”
The collaborative defines a community hub as a “multi-purpose space that strives to be accessible to all groups in the area that it serves and acts as a common point of access and referral, connecting local residents to a range of high quality and cost-effective services.” (Havelock Collaborative Pilot Project: Guiding Framework & Memorandum of Understanding. Framework for Collaboration & Service Delivery).
A Collaborative Model
In addition to the Memorandum of Understanding, members of the collective agreed to sign a collaborative Terms of Reference. Together, they are responsible for the primary decision-making of the hub: for planning, maintaining and evaluating the hub; for overseeing communications and participation, and reviewing recommendations of other groups; and for presenting reports to funders, boards and others (Havelock Collaborative Pilot Project, Guiding Framework & Memorandum of Understanding, Governance & Decision-Making).
The lead agency of the hub is the CCRC. The other lead partner in the hub is the PPRN, which, however, has few resources and currently has no staff. The hub’s steering committee, consisting of four organizations—the CCRC, YWCA, PCLC, and a City of Peterborough Social Services representative—acts as an executive and hiring committee, is responsible for decisions between meetings and makes recommendations to the full collaborative, says Rosemary O’Donnell, manager of CCRC.
“Often the meetings of the two groups are merged, since everyone’s resources are stretched. It is the full collaborative that makes final decisions related to our strategic and operational activities. Much of the project development work and all of the administrative work is done by the lead agency.” The work to which O’Donnell refers includes funding proposals and agreements, reporting, financial management, staffing, premises, technology, membership, meeting agendas and minutes, event planning and so forth.
Planning for the Hub
Developing the hub had its hardships. “It was a three-year struggle until we opened,” says
Rosemary O’Donnell, manager of the Community Counselling Resource Centre (CCRC). Collaboration and working together successfully were key to the formation of the hub. The Havelock Hub has been operating on a very tight budget throughout its 18-month pilot project and since opening at the end of February 2016.
When the collaborative was meeting to form the hub, they applied to the Community Foundation of Peterborough for funding. They received a grant that funded a researcher to interview agencies and find out which organizations would become potential partners in the hub before they launched the pilot project. Overall the annual budget for the hub is small: “We received a total of $75,000 from the City of Peterborough and the Community Foundation of Peterborough,” says Rosemary O’Donnell, manager of the CCRC.
The Municipality of Havelock subsidizes the Havelock Hub, giving it free rent to use the space at the Medical Centre. The hub also receives financial support from the City and County of Peterborough as well as from the Community Foundation of Peterborough.
“The toughest challenge is creating a common funding support for the common agenda. No one disputes poverty. No one disputes the value of the program. Funding is just hard to get,” explains Casey Ready, executive director of CCRC.
“When we received funding from the Community Foundation of Peterborough, that gave us credibility,” says O’Donnell. But the funding that has been received is not enough to sustain the hub.
“We feel the hub is a proven model. But it could just collapse because of lack of resources,” says Jöelle Favreau, Community Development Coordinator for YWCA Peterborough and a member of the hub’s steering committee and collaborative.
Both O’Donnell and Ready donate a lot of their time in staff roles, to assist the operations of the hub. They are hoping to source additional funding to keep the hub open for the long-term. Currently, the hub coordinator works only 14 to 15 hours per week, and the hub is running part-time hours: full days Mondays, Wednesday afternoons, and Friday mornings. The hub runs entirely without any administration.
As of January 2018, the hub will receive some additional (although limited and reduced) funding from the City and County of Peterborough. This funding will enable the hub to continue delivering services into 2018, past the end of the pilot stage of the program, but efforts continue to develop ongoing sources of funding that will sustain the work of the hub into the future.
The Peterborough Housing Corporation has plans to develop a building for seniors in the Havelock community. Community Care and VON have announced that they would relocate to the new building to deliver their services specializing in seniors, rather than remain in the hub.
Organizations connected with the hub include Social Services, Community Care, VON, City County Health Unit, and the YWCA. The YWCA provides a number of programs including food boxes and a community garden. The John Howard Society offers a program to young offenders. Focusing on employment, it runs the Aspire program, a mentorship-based program for 17 to 25-year-olds. Services to seniors, including home care and personal support, are provided by the VON. Community Care also provides services to seniors, such as meals, transportation and health services.
“Some people who access the services at the hub are not aware of what services and programs are out there,” says Rosemary O’Donnell, manager of the CCRC. “There was one person who was being abused by their landlord. They did not know they were eligible for CPP (Canada Pension Plan) This person was living in extreme isolation and was not aware of services for which they were eligible.”
Services available at the hub include housing support and listings, legal clinic services, credit counselling, professional counselling and employment counselling. “People hitchhike, get a ride, or must have their own vehicle to get to the hub. Some of the people who use the hub walk there and live right in Havelock,” explains O’Donnell. There is no public transportation in this rural area. For those individuals not able to travel to the hub, legal services are offered remotely by Skype. Many people do not know about the relatively new low-income Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP). To get them started, staff at the hub offer people assistance with filling out the online applications that will help reduce their hydro bills.
The hub serves all ages of people, but O’Donnell says, “it is generally an aging population over 40 that uses the services of the hub. We see a fair amount of people with chronic illnesses such as COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] and diabetes.”
Many hub clients work part-time, on contract; they might work at two or three other jobs. Some work for very low wages, with no health benefits. O’Donnell explains that the lawyer who has worked at the hub has helped people deal with the legal issues that arise from such types of insecure, precarious employment.
The CCRC offers some of the hub’s services, including a housing resource centre (HRC) and professional counselling. In the past, the HRC sent out workers three or four times a month into the township of Havelock-Belmont-Methuen. “It was very difficult to do this type of work alone. When someone is working on their own from an agency, they have to find a safe place to deliver the services, deal with bad weather in winter and other barriers to get the job done,” says O’Donnell.
One program offered by the YWCA called Nourish ensures that nutritious food is delivered biweekly to hub clients. Jὃelle Favreau, Community Development Coordinator for YWCA says, “We offer food at significantly lower prices – we checked the price for a $12 box that we offer in nearby Norwood and it cost $52.” The YWCA also offers cooking classes and runs a community garden. “Our goal in Havelock is to connect people with resources and advocacy so that more people have access to good food and money to buy food. We also want to make sure that people are getting the services they need, are well-housed, and not living in poverty. Now, they are healthier and better connected,” says Favreau.
The hub also offers public education workshops focusing on credit counselling. Other programs include an educational and counselling program for seniors, such as for how to handle telephone scams.
“It has been proven time and time again that crisis prevention in social services, housing and health care creates better outcomes, and saves money for existing funding systems. There are social and financial benefits to being proactive,” says Casey Ready, executive director of the CCRC.
The Havelock Hub has adopted the Social Determinants of Health (Mikkonen & Raphael, 2010) to guide their work. Using this model as a lens through which to understand complex issues, many social problems are seen as being interrelated. More than 30 households are using the hub every month, all with very complex interrelated issues to be addressed, according to O’Donnell.
When people first arrive at the hub, the intake coordinator greets them and conducts an assessment interview to determine needs, which then informs service planning. “People who use the hub often have multiple and complex problems which require multiple services to address their issues,” says O’Donnell.
The intake coordinator strives to set up a cooperative and collaborative environment in which various services at the hub can help an individual or a family. Clients will identify that they have a specific problem,” says O’Donnell. “For example, with employment counselling, there is seldom a single issue that needs to be addressed. Usually there is more than one. We will identify services that can help them, often refer them to organizations in the hub.”
The Havelock Hub was designed to engage the local community in decision-making processes. The governance structure of hub allows for input from organizations and individuals in the community. The Dean of Trent/Fleming School of Nursing recently approached the hub because they are seeking partnerships in the area to conduct a study and for nursing students to deliver community services to those with chronic illness.
Input was sought from local leaders. As well, a local leadership table, consisting of people with lived experience, municipal and community leaders, meets every two months, to discuss hub-related goals and business.
“When it comes to dealing with the community,” Rosemary O’Donnell, manager of the CCRC explains, “it’s important to have leaders who are people from the community. We have to help people to work together. It is bottom up, not top down, for the local community.”
Lessons Learned and Advice
Throughout its development and operations, the Havelock Hub has been a collaborative effort involving several organizations working together to respond to the needs of community members. Such collaboration involves listening to the needs of individuals and different organizations working together to find innovative, new ways of doing things. “You have to understand you cannot maintain separate silos. For everyone coming together, small sacrifices take place in collaboration. Successful collaboration means new ways of doing things, being innovative. Don’t start too big,” says Rosemary O’Donnell, manager of the CCRC.
It is important to find willing partners to help fund and support the development of a hub. With regard to the development of the Havelock Hub, “What worked,” says Diane Therrien, city councillor for Ward 3 in Peterborough, is that “Havelock city government was a willing partner in the hub. They recognized the need for services such as employment counselling and mental health.” She adds: “We need the provincial and federal governments to do their part to help out. We can’t expect the City of Peterborough to do it all. Services at the hub – health services, for example—that’s a provincial responsibility. At the city level, we have a lot of demands and not a lot of ways to make revenue. Taxes are the only way to raise money.”
The delivery of services from the Havelock Hub located in a rural area.is a good example of a model of delivering services that is working well. It is important to recognize when such a model of delivering services is working well and identify if such a model might work elsewhere. After the hub was up and running, it became clear that there was no better way to deliver services for rural residents. “There are other underserved communities in our County, and we are hoping to eventually take the service model and lessons learned in Havelock to other communities” says Rosemary O’Donnell, manager of the CCRC. Jὃelle Favreau, Community Development coordinator for the YWCA says, “The model is working; it could definitely be replicated in other rural areas in our region.” But she also emphasizes that they first need to ensure the Havelock Hub has enough resources: “We see many communities that do not have enough resources and could benefit from having a hub in the region. We haven’t found a better way to deliver services for rural residents.”