Community Solutions Committee makes friendship centre in Wetaskiwin a priority

City of Wetaskiwin council voices concerns over friendship centre

A friendship centre for the City of Wetaskiwin is in an early conceptual development stage.

Members of the Community Solutions Committee attended city council’s June 26 meeting to discuss the proposed friendship centre and ask for council’s support.

Council accepted the presentation as information and agreed to give its support for further research regarding value, costs and viability of a community friendship center in Wetaskiwin.

Fran Bethell, a former inspector with the Wetaskiwin RCMP detachment, now a citizen member of the committee, says the Community Solutions Committee has discussed a number of social concerns affecting the local community, mainly centering around poverty.

To address four main concerns: food security, housing/shelter, available services/resources and financial/economic, the committee believes the development of a friendship centre should be a priority.

The friendship centre would serve as a hub to provide a variety of social and other services to the community.

With council’s support, the next step is to continue research and start engaging input from social service agencies, businesses, enforcement agencies, ministerial, the indigenous community, municipal and provincial government and the community at large.

Members of council did have a few questions and concerns regarding a friendship centre.

Coun. June Boyda questioned if there were any perceived drawbacks of the friendship centre.

“I think we’re a little early in the process … your question might be a little early in the process to answer that,” said Bethell.

Multiple councillors questioned how the friendship centre would be funded. Bethell says one task of the committee is to explore financial options. “We don’t know what that picture looks like.”

Coun. Joe Branco voiced concerns the friendship centre could have the potential to duplicate services already available in the community.

Bethell says there are many social services experts from the community involved in the concept, which will help ensure duplication will not occur. “Everyone brings to the table their experiences or knowledge. We’re not wanting to duplicate, we want to enhance.”

Coun. Wayne Neilson asked how the committee will work to ensure it stays true to the vision of a centre that is inclusive to all groups and members of the community. “Maybe I’m not well versed. To me, the name friendship circle has an indigenous connotation.”

Coun. Patricia MacQuarrie agreed, stating caution moving forward with the naming of such a facility is imperative to make it clear the centre is all-inclusive and not aimed as serving a specific group within the community.

According to the Alberta Native Friendship Centre Association (ANFCA), friendship centres provide front-line service and community support to people in communities. Friendship Centres offer a structure — governance, financial (eventually) and programming — and are flexible to community needs reflecting the community’s priorities. Friendship centres offer positive programming and are status blind providing services equally to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal individuals.