Jane Parham says she has Forward House in Parksville to thank for helping her break out of her shell.
“My self-esteem has gone up since I’ve been involved. I used to be shy, now I’m not shy,” Parham said of Forward House, which was part of the Project Connect Health Fair.
The third annual fair on Oct. 12 — presented by the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness — provided a number of services and supports to people who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. On-site services included haircuts, showers, HIV testings, identification services as well as a number of other local resources.
Sharon Welch, executive director of Forward House and task force co-chair, said they are trying to make services available. She said Forward House did a research project geared toward seniors and the most common response was that there is a lack of awareness of what programs are available.
“An event like this is bringing everybody together to be able to talk about what they offer, to be able to give some items away so people have some extra resources,” Welch said. “It’s really just to make sure the people are getting connected to the services that they need.”
Welch also said there is a high turnover in the service-provider industry, so it’s also a way for employees to know what resources are out there.
“I think access is such a barrier for people. They just so often can’t find which service has the right thing,” Welch said. “We’re just helping them get the right information on the first try.”
Parham and Yvonne Geigle, another Forward House client, were at the fair handing out baked goods that they had helped make during the baking class at Forward House.
Along with the baking class, Geigle said there are yoga, art and writing classes for clients.
“It’s a very good place to come to,” Geigle said.
Forward House’s kitchen co-ordinator Shane Ovington said they do psycho-social rehab for their clients.
“We have art programs, art therapy, we have yoga programs, educational programs, anything to help people with their mental well-being,” Ovington said. “It’s all stuff that they can socialize and get together with other people and kind of get rid of the stigma of mental health.”
Ovington said since he’s been working with Forward House he’s noticed a lot of improvement from Parham and Geigle.
“The benefits far outweigh anything we could do personally for them because they’re doing it for themselves,” Ovington said.
For more on the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness contact Welch at 250-954-0785 or 250-668-8612.