Agencies join together under one roof to tackle social issues

Welcoming a new community initiative to the city this September, the Safe Communities Opportunity and Resource Centre — originally opened on June 18 of this year but was closed due to complications from the Calgary flood — has resumed operation.

SORCe, as it is referred to on its website, offers a way to access social service resources in Calgary.

Judy Fernandes is the planning analyst to the chief of police and has been managing SORCe with inspector Curtis Olson of the community and youth services section of the Calgary Police Service.

“When you walk through the doors at SORCe you’re going to do something,” Fernandes says. “Somebody is going to try and help you and your going to walk away with something whether it’s a library card or you’ve just done an assessment for housing.”

Located on the busy City Hall CTrain platform, SORCe was established in Calgary to provide an easier way to navigate the complicated system of social services in city.Sidewalk chalk is a method used to let Calgarians know about SORCe.

Photo by Allison Drinnan

Housing 14 social service agencies such as Alberta Health Services, Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre and the Kerby Centre, visitors are provided with an assessment to identify their particular needs upon arrival and directed to the appropriate programs and services — whether they are located within the SORCe facility or not.

Fernandes says that SORCe itself is designed in a purposeful way to add to the efficiency.

Community leadership

Supplying materials, labour and project management, Calgary Police Service will be helping to run SORCe until a manager is hired, in which case there will be no police working at the location.
There was a need for a community initiative surrounding social services, Fernandes says, which was the premise behind establishing SORCe.

Through a Community Leadership Group initiated late last year, a number of executive directors of social service organizations in Calgary were brought to discuss developing a place where these services could work together.

“The community groups shared a collective vision and were very supportive of the concept,” Fernandes says.

She explains that SORCe is not an agency itself, but rather a grassroots community collaborative.

Curtis Olson says that SORCe focuses on housing, mental health, addiction and employment supports.
“We can’t be everything, but we can focus on those points,” he says.

A focus on social issues rather than criminal

Olson says that a collective such as SORCe has never been done in Canada before.

“Social innovation — that is really what has been happening here,” Olson says.

Shannon Jones is the team lead at The Alex Youth Health Centre. She was one of the people invited to the initial community leadership group.

Jones says that it has only recently come to people’s minds that there are certain issues that should be dealt with by social services and the police should be dealing with criminal matters.

“Sometimes, when social issues aren’t addressed in a community, those social issues will spill out into the community in criminal ways,” Jones says.

She says the solution is not punishment but to “deal with the issue that caused that criminality in the first place,” and that those can usually be “traced back to the social issues.”

Jones says that people who end up with mental health, addictions or homelessness issues don’t have the time and the energy to research the things that they need in order to get out of their situation.

That is the underlying premise behind SORCe according to Olson – to help people who may not know where to get help.

“There is an amazing energy around here and we get people coming in that are just looking to get a hand up and they find it,” Olson says.

adrinnan@cjournal.ca