The Need Doesn’t Stop: Family Transition Place

With everyone stuck together at home during the pandemic, conflicts escalated and this team went into high gear to help new clients.

November 24, 2020 | | Local Heroes

When you’re in the business of providing transitional support to women and children experiencing abuse, there’s no shutting down because of a virus.

Although calls to Orangeville’s Family Transition Place dropped during the early days of the pandemic, executive director Norah Kennedy says the impact on those living in unsafe situations was enormous. With everyone stuck together at home, conflicts escalated, and it could be difficult, if not impossible, to call for help. Potential clients were also worried about communal living risks at the shelter.

Staff and volunteers at Family Transition Place last year, from left to right, back row: Sara Smith, Janice Snow, Janet Taylor, Lynette Pole-Langdon; third row: Travis Greenley, Ashlynne Cameron, Kendra Wassink, Joanne Jordan, Samantha McCabe, Sara Flache, Debbie Cribbis, Diane Vandenberg, Trish Grabb; second row: Femi Oke (on arm of chair), Lyn Allen, Kristy Fearon, Lisa Goodison, Norah Kennedy, Janice Glassford, Andrea Chantree, Laura Moscatiello, Debbie Lahey, Bonnie Waterfield, Donna Buchan, Stephanie Figliomeni; front row: Christina Gonzalez (seated), Kelly Bohonos, Julie Newton, Tiffany McMillan, Courtney Halkett, Cheryl Martin-Goncalves and Keely Horan. Photo by Kelly Lee.

Staff and volunteers at Family Transition Place last year, from left to right, back row: Sara Smith, Janice Snow, Janet Taylor, Lynette Pole-Langdon; third row: Travis Greenley, Ashlynne Cameron, Kendra Wassink, Joanne Jordan, Samantha McCabe, Sara Flache, Debbie Cribbis, Diane Vandenberg, Trish Grabb; second row: Femi Oke (on arm of chair), Lyn Allen, Kristy Fearon, Lisa Goodison, Norah Kennedy, Janice Glassford, Andrea Chantree, Laura Moscatiello, Debbie Lahey, Bonnie Waterfield, Donna Buchan, Stephanie Figliomeni; front row: Christina Gonzalez (seated), Kelly Bohonos, Julie Newton, Tiffany McMillan, Courtney Halkett, Cheryl Martin-Goncalves and Keely Horan. Photo by Kelly Lee.

The number of cases has now rebounded. Though no one is ever left hanging in a crisis, about 80 people are currently on a waiting list for some services. While many organizations have talked about the need to pivot during the pandemic, Norah says that for FTP a more apt term would be “pirouette.”

Normal capacity at the shelter is about 25 people, but this number had to be decreased by about half. Each resident now has two interconnected rooms, but common areas such as the kitchen and playroom are closed. Where appropriate, the organization also uses offsite locations.

Most other aspects of the operation have also changed. Pre-pandemic, FTP youth educator Travis Greenley spent his days in schools. He and the youth education team have taught thousands of kids how to build and maintain healthy relationships – and how to identify unhealthy ones.

With the school program temporarily shut down, Travis has been redeployed. FTP’s youth educators are producing YouTube videos – more than 20 so far – and conducting Zoom workshops. “With the kids cooped up,” says Travis, “sibling relationships become an issue.”

Travis has also been spending time working in the residential program and says that getting to know some FTP clients firsthand has been powerful: “To see their strength and courage to face the day is so inspiring. And to see the incredible FTP staff do what they do.”

Janice Snow’s official title is food and nutrition specialist, but that only partly describes her job at FTP. A trained chef, Janice presides over a shared space that is, normally, much more than just a kitchen. “It’s a gathering place,” she says. “It’s a bunch of women in the kitchen cooking. It’s about restoring dignity.”

With the kitchen out of operation, Janice has taken on the role of facilities manager, ensuring Covid-19 safety, maintenance and screening procedures are followed. But she stresses that all FTP’s 50 or so full- and part-time staff are flexing to make it work. “Everyone has been stepping up to the plate,” she says. “The pandemic has made us come together stronger than ever.” She hopes, too, that some of the adaptations will become permanent. “The pandemic has opened our eyes to new ways to serve our community.”

Norah comes back to the main focus. “The heart of it all is our clients. The organization’s three pillars are safety, support and hope. In delivering that, the ‘how’ doesn’t matter; it’s the ‘why.’ And we’re clear on that.” She reminds those in need that support is available anytime at 1-800-265-9178.

Family Transition Place: One of our 2020 Local Heroes

About the Author More by Jeff Rollings

Jeff Rollings is a freelance writer living in Caledon.

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