After years of studies and planning, the John Howard Society of Brandon held the grand opening for its Men’s Resource Centre on Tuesday evening.
Though the centre has been operating since Jan. 6, the society held a formal opening ceremony with sponsors, staff and clients. Approximately 50 people attended the event.
John Howard Society executive director Ross Robinson told the Sun on Wednesday that the goal of the centre is to provide support and programming for people after they have been released from Brandon Correctional Centre so they can be successfully reintegrated into society.
He said that the vision was brought forward approximately one year ago, but that was following several years of research in partnership.
"We recognized that when people were released from BCC, they often didn’t have a safe and trusted place to land and to continue their rehabilitation," Robinson said. "We did research with Brandon University psych nursing students in 2016, 2017 and 2018 working as a practicum student with the John Howard Society in BCC trying to address what are the shortfalls.
"We understand that all the staff at BCC do a great job to prepare people for their release. Release is a process, it’s not an event. Once you get released, then what? That’s where we take over."
Robin said that some problems people being released include trying to get new pieces of identification, learning how to find suitable housing and building healthy relationships.
While the centre is in the same building as the society, there is a separate door for it on the opposite side from the front doors on Eighth Street near The Town Centre.
Most weeks, the centre will be open from Monday to Sunday. Programming includes an eight-week course called "Crossroad," which aims to teach people life and financial skills to help people establish a household and life after incarceration. However, the program is available to anyone who thinks they could benefit.
On Tuesdays, the Crossroad program group is for men only, but the Thursday sessions will be co-ed. Tuesday sessions are from 7 to 9 p.m. while the Thursday sessions run 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Every Friday, the Brandon Boxing Club hosts boxing lessons from 4-5 p.m. at their 1417 Rosser Ave. location. The club donates their time and space for the initiative.
"They’re there to learn how to safely get rid of their physical stress," Robinson said.
The centre also holds art events, wellness talks, healthy eating workshops and music jams. A complete schedule can be found at brandonjohnhoward.ca.
To keep the centre running and to improve its programming, Robinson said that the society is looking for both volunteers and donations.
"Our success will only be possible with the work of our volunteers," he said. The centre forecasts a need for 56 hours of volunteer hours each week. "We’re not there yet," Robinson said.
From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. this week, the society will be running a fundraising table at the local Canadian Tire. Those interested in volunteering can walk in or call the society at 204-727-1696. All prospective volunteers are subject to a vulnerable sector check.
» Twitter: @ColinSlark