So far during the pandemic, more people have turned to Catholic Social Services for counselling services, including anger and stress management.
The Red Deer office has seen 139 counselling clients, an increase of 17 per cent, and on Tuesday, Catholic Social Services launched its provincial Sign of Hope fundraising campaign to raise $2 million before the end of December to meet the rising demand for services.
“It’s been a very difficult time. Some people are experiencing job loss. People are talking about how the pandemic has affected their personal relationships, sense of isolation, and fear,” said program manager Don Bramfield.
He said people are also struggling to make sense of the pandemic. Some think it’s a conspiracy, or the apocalypse, and everything in between.
“People aren’t really sure. It can be confusing with so many different voices and different messages,” Bramfield said.
The Red Deer office hopes to receive about $500,000 from the fundraising campaign. Its Morning Star program, and St. Zita’s Calls for Assistance program, both rely totally on donations.
The Morning Star program includes a drop-in centre and outreach assistance for vulnerable women experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, sexual exploitation and other issues.
So far, 92 women have accessed the drop-in since its launch in November. Open three days a week in the downtown Catholic Social Services building, the program provides access to basic necessities such as food, hygiene products, laundry and a shower facility.
St Zita’s Calls for Assistance, a referral program for people looking for addiction supports, shelters, help with family violence, and food, has received 78 calls since April.
“We’ve already served as many people in half the year than we thought we’d serve the whole year,” said Bramfield about St. Zita’s.
Troy Davies, CEO of Catholic Social Services, said Albertans have faced tough times before, but this year has been unlike anything the province has seen.
“This is just the beginning. We know the longer the pandemic continues, the more strain that will be put on the most vulnerable among us. We need to prepare to meet these community needs now, and for many, many months to come,” said Davies in a statement.
“It is often said in this pandemic that ‘we are all in the same boat.’ But I believe it is more accurate to say we are all in different boats amid the same storm. This is an urgent call for assistance on behalf of Alberta’s most vulnerable people. An SOS for those in bigger boats to come to their aid.”