The Sooke Region Communities Health Network, in partnership with the United Way, have implemented a province-wide initiative called Safe Seniors, Strong Communities in Sooke. The initiative came as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to help provide seniors with extra support. (Photo contributed by Sooke Region Communities Health Network)

Outreach initiative connects Sooke seniors to support amid COVID-19

Volunteers encouraged to sign up as need increases

  • Apr. 6, 2020 5:30 a.m.

A community outreach initiative is ensuring vulnerable citizens in the Sooke Region are getting access to the resources and help they need.

The Sooke Region Communities Health Network (SRCHN), in partnership with the United Way, have implemented a province-wide initiative called Safe Seniors, Strong Communities in Sooke. The initiative came as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to help provide seniors with extra support.

Seniors, along with anyone who feels in need of support, can dial 211 and they will be connected to someone from the Sooke Region Communities Health Network. From there, they will be asked a series of questions such as what kind of help they are wishing to receive and what time or day they would need it, and then the person will be match to an appropriate volunteer.

ALSO READ: B.C. 211 hotline expands to link COVID-19 homebound seniors, volunteers

The SRCHN already had a similar program called Better at Home in effect, which helps seniors keep their independence and remain living at home by having volunteers stop by and help them with basic tasks, such as grocery shopping, friendly visiting, light housekeeping or yard work. But now, things have essentially just gone more virtual to try and limit the spread of COVID-19.

“No one needs to feel helpless and alone,” said Christine Bossi, coordinator for the Sooke Region Communities Health Network. “Some people can’t go outside at this time, and many people are feeling anxious and scared, so we just want to be there for them as much as possible.”

The main difference with how things will work now, is that volunteers will keep their distance. So if they are dropping off groceries or a prescription they will leave it at the door, and instead of going over for a visit, they can keep seniors company with phone calls.

“We will go back to the Better at Home program once this is over,” said Bossi, noting it was a quick transition for the clients already using Better at Home.

Bossi said even before the 211 initiative was implemented, the volunteer group was already brainstorming ways to help residents. She expects the need for help in Sooke to grow as the pandemic continues, so the SRCHN will also need more volunteers. Volunteers are also asked to dial 211, and then they will be connected with someone in Sooke.

All volunteers are required to get a criminal record check, which the 211 services will help process. The criminal record check is to ensure the security and safety of the people using the the program.

“The longer the pandemic lasts, the more people will need help and we would like to be prepared for this eventuality,” said Bossi, adding that the 211 initiative will likely help more seniors become aware of the resources already available in their area for future use.

“We are here to support you so you can feel well,” said Bossi. “We are trying to be responsive. This situation is ongoing and we are having lots of discussions on how to best serve the community.”

Anyone in the Sooke Region, group or individual, who feels like they could contribute is encouraged to get involved. Bossi said they have already partnered with the food bank, drivers to deliver groceries, as well as Village Food Markets, and is open to anyone interested in helping out. So far, 30 clients in the Sooke Region have signed up, and 20 volunteers.

“We appreciate the collaboration with everyone in the community,” said Bossi. “We are in this together, and only together can we make sure that everyone is getting what they need.”

For more information or to register, please dial 211 or go online to www.bc211.ca.

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