SUBMITTED PHOTO Thomas Kervin is an advocate for poverty law at Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre in Port Hardy.

Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre launches new poverty law advocacy program for the Mt. Waddington Region

“We’re here to help North Island locals have fair access to services”

Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre has expanded their services.

In April of 2019, the centre had secured a three-year contract with the Law Foundation of BC to start a poverty law advocacy program for the Mt. Waddington region. The program focuses on reducing the barriers people may face when accessing services for residential tenancy and income assistance through federal or provincial programs.

“It’s just one piece of a bigger, broader scope of services offered here on the north island,” said advocate Thomas Kervin. “It’s certainly an advocacy service that can help locals have better, fairer access to government programs.”

The program aims to ensure that the rights of low-income individuals are met when they are looking to access government benefits, either federally or provincially.

“This kind of service would not be possible without the help from the Law Foundation of BC,” he continued, “so I’d like to offer a tremendous thank you to them for making this program available for those on the north island.”

Kervin was recently hired to fill the position last April. He received training from the law foundation in Vancouver shortly after joining the centre’s team. Working as an advocate for three months now, Kervin offers clients with information and advice on provincial income assistance programs and what steps a person can take if they are facing barriers to income assistance.

The advocate noted that he is ready to assist those who may have been, for example, declined for any kind of income assistance or had recently received an eviction notice from their landlord.

“Accessing government services or programs can be overwhelming for some,” Kervin mentioned, “but an advocate can definitely assist you along the way.” The advocate anticipates that a large majority of his work will focus on residential tenancy issues, especially when it comes to what could be called “renovictions”.

In a broad sense, the advocate assists tenants who are looking to resolve any issues they may have with the landlord either through negotiation or dispute resolution.

The centre’s advocate also offers information to the public around a tenant’s rights, income assistance and its supplements and benefits, disability benefits, the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. The poverty law advocate, unfortunately, is unable to assist those who may be experiencing family law issues.

A 2005 report called “Poverty Law Needs Assessment and Gap/Overlap Analysis” was produced by the Law Foundation of British Columbia and found that community advocacy groups on the north island were desperately understaffed, which often resulted in burn out.

The report also found that the most common issues facing those experiencing poverty on the north island often related to B.C. income assistance, employment and benefits, housing, debt and collection, Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security, and foreclosures.

Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre Society is a non-profit organization that provides services primarily to Aboriginals living in the Mt. Waddington Region. The centre hosts craft groups, support groups, cultural workshops, recreational activities, life skills, advocacy, one-on-one support, group support, and community engagement. The centre was also incorporated in 2002.

– Press release

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