The Salvation Army Community and Residential Services Centre on Cumberland Street is more than a shelter, a food bank, a rehabilitation effort, and many other of its vital programs.
It’s the light at the end of the tunnel.
And in that light there is the brand new Journey to Life Centre currently under construction and the Journey to Life program for clients of the new building. The 30,000 square-foot building expected to be completed by Fall 2020 is the cornerstone of a process that gives members of the Thunder Bay community in need the opportunity to triumph over the hardships they’ve encountered throughout their lives and start over on their way to a brighter future.
“I saw a phrase before that said God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you there, and that’s the philosophy behind Journey to Life,” The Salvation Army Community and Residential Services Executive Director Major Lori Mitchell said. “We have clients that come to us and we care about them just as they come to us, but we care too much to leave them there.”
“You realize that what makes the biggest difference when we go through difficult times is the circle of care that surrounds us,” Mitchell added. “What kind of support system do we have to carry us through those traumatic times in our lives? Without that strong, healthy connection with people who care about you those traumatic times are magnified tenfold.”
The Thunder Bay community has long been plagued by addiction to drugs and alcohol, mental illness, criminal activity, homelessness, and unemployment. The Journey to Life Centre will carefully evaluate clients to identify their specific needs before being connected to the appropriate agencies and caseworkers.
In addition to the help from outside sources, clients will also have a place to stay at the Centre - a single-occupant apartment they will be taught to take care of as they prepare for later transition back into society.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as not knowing where to go or what services are available or how to access those services and other times it’s much deeper rooted,” Director of Housing Services Division for The District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board Ken Ranta said. “Individuals need supports, they need help with personal issues, addictions, mental health, interactions with individuals, trust issues.”
“It’s not going to be a handout it’s going to be a hand up,” Program Caseworker for The Salvation Army Community and Residential Services Trena Reid added. “We’re not going to walk in front of you or behind you, we’re going to walk beside you in the journey. We’re going to give you the tools to keep you going through this journey."
Dwayne, a resident at the SATBCARS location on Cumberland Street, found his life spiraling as a result of alcohol, drug use, and criminal activities. He came to the Salvation Army because he was tired of the way he was living and ready to make a change for the betterment of his family and his two children.
“I see things that other people are doing that I wish I could be doing, like having a regular job,” he said. “I’d like to have a normal life.”
“I just want to go to school and I just want to have my kids and I want to live in a house and I don’t want to do this anymore anyways - what I’ve been doing,” he added.
It’s been more than 10 years since Dwayne’s first stay at the centre and he’s come and gone through different stints throughout that period of time, including his current stay of 11 consecutive months.
“I’ve been here for quite some time because I know I’m not ready right now to have a place. This place has helped me a lot and I’m grateful the Salvation Army is here,” he said. “I’m proud that I’m not the person I used to be and now I’m actually seeing the light of where I want to be and I’m setting goals for myself. I do want to change. I want my kids to be able to look up to me.”
The Journey to Life incorporates every part of life necessary to be a contributing member of society. In addition to the larger factors that have held them back, clients will be taught essential life skills like managing a bank account, doing groceries, maintaining their apartment, and securing and keeping a job. By addressing the key needs and layering on these life skills, clients will eventually leave the Journey to Life Centre with the foundation and confidence to start a new life.
“At the end of the day you want to have an individual find a home, be comfortable, have the tools, the skills and supports to be able to sustain that home and then continue on with life in the directions they choose,” Ranta said.
With any development and associated programs of this magnitude comes the need for substantial financial support. The staff and volunteers at The Salvation Army Community and Residential Services are always preaching The Journey to Life message and welcoming donations from public and private sources. In addition to the consistent efforts on a daily basis, a public capital fundraising campaign is underway.
“We need your help to make this happen," said Mitchell. "We are approximately 70% of the way there - we need to reach out goal. You can be part of something great!"
Call our office at 345-6492 or click on the 'donate' button above to make your donation. Be sure to specify that you are supporting the Journey to Life Centre Capital Campaign in Thunder Bay.
Thanks in advance for your support.