John Howard helps
Society provides hot meals and help

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Dec 06/99) - More than 30 people make their way through the doors of the Sailivik Centre every night between 4:30 and 5:30 for a hot meal.

As one of the many programs run by the local chapter of the John Howard Society, the meal program offers three healthy meals a day to those who can't afford to eat.

"One of the most rewarding things about working here is knowing people are leaving with a full stomach and they're not out there starving," said Brett Dillabough, manager and one of the cooks for the John Howard Society.

"We're also focusing on youth right now and trying keep them off the streets and out of trouble."

The society offers breakfast and lunch programs for children and Dillabough says both meals are very successful. The busy supper- time meal is consequently for adults or families only.

And since the Iqaluit chapter started several months ago, they have initiated various programs that are run out of their offices at the Sailivik Centre, including a thrift shop, sewing program, court services and a youth group.

"The programs are developing, the thrift shop is very successful, and we're applying for grants to buy some equipment for the youth program.

"The biggest challenge is getting a steady supply of food, but many of the local businesses are very generous," said Dillabough.

A large part of the John Howard Society mission statement, however, is responding to the consequences and causes of crime.

To that end, board member and lawyer Euan MacKay says bail supervision and watching people on conditional release are key areas for the society.

"The society can oversee the general supervision of people on conditional release and assist them with a smooth integration back into society," said Mackay.

"We have a good relationship building with social services and without a doubt (Iqaluit) has benefited since the society started."

Mackay says people now have somewhere they can go to for help or for a warm meal and coffee.

"Confidentiality is important with us because of the legal aspects, but there shouldn't be any stigma attached to coming in and having a meal."

And it appears there is no stigma as all the programs are met with smiling faces and a lot of public enthusiasm.

As both Christmas and winter approach, the John Howard Society has begun what is shaping up to be a successful fund-raising initiative -- the toy drive.