VIU Students Called to King Arthur Court

Centre for Community Outreach and Care coordinator Ashleigh Martinflatt and King Arthur Court property manager Fred Williams are looking forward to seeing VIU Child and Youth Care students working alongside tenants from the 36-unit housing complex.

June 20, 2016 - 1:00pm

VIU’s Centre for Community Outreach and Care launches year-long project to address quality of life issues at housing complex in Harewood

NANAIMO, BC: What started as a conversation between Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Centre for Community Outreach and Care coordinator Ashleigh Martinflatt and King Arthur Court property manager Fred Williams, has led to the development of a year-long project that will see VIU Child and Youth Care (CYC) students working on quality of life issues raised by residents of this Harewood housing complex.

VIU’s Centre for Community Outreach and Care is focused on providing practical child and family focused learning experiences for CYC students by working with the Harewood community, where the University’s main campus is located. The project under development between the Centre and King Arthur Court will give four CYC students unique and challenging experiential learning experiences – the kind of experiences they will be able to draw on when they transition to a career in the community wellness field.  

The first step of the new initiative was for CYC students to listen to the residents at King Arthur Court and hear their concerns. To do that, a barbecue and community meeting was organized at a nearby school. Third year CYC practicum student Deneal Woolridge knocked on every door in King Arthur Court to explain why a meeting was being called and to encourage tenants to come out. She visited with the children, single moms, elderly and disabled who call King Arthur Court home and said she was inspired by the stories she heard.

“This was my first community development project so before I started I told myself ‘people are people, don’t be nervous,’” said Woolridge. “Once I started knocking I found at first they hesitated to open their doors, but after seeing me talking to their neighbours over a few days everyone started opening up and we had some incredible discussions.”

Woolridge says she had no idea how many people would come to the barbecue and was pleasantly surprised when more than 140 residents showed up. It was then that they knew they were onto something big. Six CYC student volunteers joined Woolridge at the event along with eight CYC faculty members including the Dean of Health and Human Services, Dr. Carol Stuart. Members of the Lantzville Lions Club donated all the food and cooked a meal for everyone who attended. The school gym where it was held was used to entertain the more than two dozen children who were there with their parents.

Dr. Stuart says when it was all over the CYC team held a debriefing session. She said what struck her about the follow up discussions was how deeply impacted the CYC students were to learn that there were so many families living in King Arthur Court. In 2010 the City of Nanaimo designated King Arthur Court, which is a 36-unit housing complex, a nuisance property.

“Afterwards the students understood in a very real way the impact of poverty, the importance of building community and creating a safe place to live. They could see how the tenants looked out for each other,” said Stuart. “Out of these initial learnings, our students will work with the people that live in the complex to help develop solutions that will attempt to address their concerns and improve community supports and quality of life at King Arthur Court.”

Williams says the reputation of the complex was built up over decades and he admits there have been issues in the past. However, he also said that the tenants are keen to help shift perceptions of the property and he believes working with VIU’s faculty and students on this project will help.

“Sure there are problems, we’re not denying that, but when I took the job of property manager in 2015 we began cleaning things up. To do that I worked closely with our tenants. Through that process I could see that the majority of people at King Arthur Court are good people just trying to get by,” said Williams. “Once I got to know them, I could see they deserved to be treated better and not labelled just because of the place they live. I knew that improving relationships with service providers, community organizations and our neighbours would be a good place to start and we welcome the support of VIU’s Centre to help us with that.”

The Centre for Community Outreach and Care refers all projects to a Community Advisory Board, made up of School District 68, Canadian Mental Health Association, RCMP, City of Nanaimo and other Harewood community representatives, for approval. Martinflatt says she worked with her team after listening to Williams’s concerns, visiting the property and meeting with the tenants. 

“From our perspective it was simple. King Arthur Court is VIU’s neighbour and we help our neighbours,” said Martinflatt. “With the help of our community partners and our Child and Youth Care students, we are going to do what we can to bring the suggestions that came from the people who live there to life and at the same time provide exceptional practicum work experiences for our students.” 

Williams says he’s had discussions with the tenants and they are excited and ready to work together to achieve the changes they are seeking.

“Attending the barbecue made me see that there are positive changes coming to King Arthur Court,” said Williams. “I saw VIU students working with families, youth and seniors and I felt that with that kind of energy we will be able to change things for the better.”  

For more information go to Centre for Community Outreach and Care. Please visit VIU’s Child and Youth Care Department website for program information.

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MEDIA CONTACT: 

Dane Gibson, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6288 | E: communications@viu.ca T: #viunews

 


Tags: In the Community


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