New Community Hub in Renfrew brings police and social agencies together
April 13, 2023 By Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Apr. 13, 2023, Renfrew, Ont. – What started as a vision of bringing together various social service agencies and law enforcement partners is now a reality in the form of the Renfrew and Area Connection Centre.
Commander Dawn Ferguson of the Renfrew Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Jeff Scott, long-time member and chair of the Renfrew Police Services Board, were among the first to greet visitors to the newly opened centre that can best be described as a one-stop shop for those seeking assistance or looking for resources in times of distress.
The Centre, located in the former Renfrew Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Renfrew, has been converted to a modern and efficient central location for anyone seeking assistance in an atmosphere that is both welcoming and receptive.
Both Commander Ferguson and Mr. Scott give full credit to Constable Tina Hunt, the detachment’s community engagement and education officer, and Constable Amanda Carruthers, for making the vision a reality.
“Tina (Hunt) really ran with this idea when the funding became available through the Community Safety and Policing Grant,” Commander Ferguson said. “The program funding is set up to support police services as a means to implement public safety and community policing initiatives.”
She explained the multi-year grant provides police services with the necessary tools and resources to enable deployment of front-line officers where and when they are needed most.
She added in the case of the Renfrew Detachment, the new Centre will support police services as they implement public safety and community policing initiatives that focus on local or provincial priorities.
“In this case, one of our priorities is helping people who may be in crisis, or are dealing with mental illness issues and need support for themselves, or someone they know. One of the ongoing goals is to reduce the stigma of mental illness or someone in crisis and get them the help they need or guide them to resources that are available.”
Many community resources are now accessible through one central location in Renfrew.
“It’s a one-stop shop for anyone seeking services in the area,” Commander Ferguson said. “They’re able to come in and connect with whatever service they need.”
She said the downtown location is much less intimidating for a person who may want to seek help, but may be intimidated going directly to the main detachment on O’Brien Road.
“Here you will find trained personnel ready to help and we will have an officer on site, but not in uniform and that in itself is one less barrier for someone to come in and talk to the staff.”
Among the services available to residents through the connection centre include Victim Services of Renfrew County, Ontario Works, Renfrew and District Food Bank, Community Housing and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
She said the centre will also work closely with the Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT), a unit comprised of an OPP officer and a crisis worker who jointly respond to calls for service in relation to mental health, addictions or an individual in crisis. The partnership allows for officers to focus on safety, while the crisis worker helps to de-escalate the situation by supporting the individual through appropriate crisis intervention.
Mr. Scott said having a modern community hub in the downtown core will help those in the community who may not be aware of the services available for them in time of need.
“I really have to give credit to Tina (Hunt) and Amanda (Carruthers) and the rest of the team here for the transformation of this building to what it is now. It is designed to project a warm and welcoming feeling and certainly is a big change from what it was previously.”
He said when a person comes in seeking help, they will be met by caring and informative staff who can point them in the right direction in terms of services and resources they might not have accessed before.
Comm. Ferguson said one of the goals of the grant, funded through the Solicitor-General’s Office, is to work directly with the community to reduce crime and allocate resources within the community to areas where they are best suited.
“This hub will also be where we meet for our situational table and that involves bringing all our community partners together to determine where our resources can best be utilized.”
Constables Hunt and Carruthers, the two officers who will be most closely associated with the hub, encourage anyone seeking more information on the hub, or are just curious what services are available, to drop in and find out more.
“We are here to serve the residents of Renfrew and the surrounding community and invite anyone to stop in and find out more,” Const. Hunt said.
– The Eganville Leader
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