As a community research project, one of the ways we are contributing during the pandemic is by sharing some of the great work that our partners are doing to help families during this stressful time; both for the purposes of building awareness, and also to demonstrate the resiliency of Point Douglas. As you’ll read throughout these blog posts, it comes as no surprise to anyone that our community has responded in a selfless and dependable way — working hard to make sure that families are supported when they need it most.
We’ll be interviewing and profiling a different community organization, group or individual each week with the intent to share a different viewpoint than you’ll find in the mainstream media – a community perspective on the current situation surrounding COVID-19, and beyond.
This week, we’re writing about Granny’s House – a new program based in the Point Douglas neighbourhood. Granny’s House provides a safe place for parents to bring their kids when they need temporary care at no cost, without the need for involvement from formal systems.
“If you are a foster parent often times you’re entitled to some respite, whereas families who don’t have their children in the child welfare system don’t always get respite,” explains Josie Hill, executive director for Blue Thunderbird Family Care – the managing organization for Granny’s House. “So this is a way for them to get a break to go do appointments for themselves, spend one-on-one [time] with one of their older kids, or take one child to the doctor instead of five children to the doctor… or just have a cup of coffee and breathe for five minutes.”
The idea for Granny’s House came about many decades ago; but due to the unique nature of the program, it had not received the necessary funding or infrastructure until now. Earlier this year, the Government of Manitoba stepped up to the plate to try something new. They partnered with Gwekaanimad—a collective of 5 non-profit groups from the North End, including Andrews Street Family Centre, Blue Thunderbird Family Care, Mount Carmel Clinic, Wahbung Abinoonjiiag, and The Winnipeg Boldness Project—to create a new type of support for the community.
Funded for a one-year pilot, Granny’s House will explore the potential for programs of this kind to impact families in a positive way by providing community-led support that is informal, accessible and non-judgemental.
“The beauty of having the [Gwekaanimad] partners is that they have the relationship [with the families],” states Hill. “This is really a community granny’s house. We can figure it out ourselves in the community, we can deal with it in more of a family, community way.”
Granny’s House was operational for about six weeks before it had to shut down due to COVID-19 cases ramping up across the city. This was certainly a hardship for families that had come to rely on the program for support, as social distancing created a situation where even informal support systems, such as family members and friends, were not available to help.
“Even their grandparents can’t come over and watch them,” remarked Hill. “If they do have any supports in the family, they can’t even come over and watch the kids. So, the kids are really missing out and the parents too.”
Staff at the house continued to keep in touch with the 15 families that had been referred to them before the shutdown and made sure to provide them with supplies they needed like groceries or arts and crafts supplies. Hill noted, however, that many of the families were simply in need of someone to talk to throughout the pandemic; to know that somebody is there who cares.
When the province began to reopen at the beginning of May, Hill knew it was time to reopen the house to community families but made sure to do so in a safe and controlled manner. To start, only one family was allowed to visit the Granny’s House each day, and staff made sure to screen the family before they arrived. Additional cleaning procedures were also implemented with all surfaces and toys in the house being sanitized between each visit. The program also began providing transportation to their families in order to avoid any need for public transit via buses or cabs.
“Transportation was a big issue for families, and with COVID-19 we don’t want them taking the bus or cabs,” explains Hill. “We rented a van and we’re picking up and dropping off. Parents are very happy to have a little time to themselves, and the kids are very happy to be back at Granny’s House.”
Hill says that as much as families often need support, it’s in times like these that the North End community and its families demonstrate their capacity for resilience and adaptability, despite having less resources available to them.
“People are resilient for sure. They’re strong – they want to take care of their kids, they just need some support like every parent,” remarks Hill. “I don’t think the parents in the inner city get enough credit. They just hunker down and take care of their kids and keep them safe and keep them in… The resilience in the community is just amazing.”