The community has flocked to her side with its support, but Valerie Coe knows there’s still a long, uphill climb ahead in her attempt to revive the Block Parent program in Fort St. John.
Coe has been busy the last few days fielding calls from media and residents across the city and B.C. since appearing before Fort St. John councillors on June 22 looking for their support.
“It’s been a little insane,” Coe laughed outside her home Wednesday afternoon. “For the program, it’s good.”
To fully get going, Coe needs four people to dedicate themselves to board positions to oversee the program across the city, and needs dozens more to hang the familiar red and white signs in their windows.
She has a meeting set for July 6, at a location still to be determined, to begin recruitment and cement her plans.
“What I’d like to start out with is a couple strong people in a couple strong neighbourhoods,” said Coe, 25, a single mother of a young daughter who moved to Fort St. John from Salmon Arm in 2012.
“I’m hoping with the addition of members, they’ll be able to help recruit within their own neighbourhoods.”
Realtors pitch in
Remax Action Realty is giving the fledgling group a $1,500 contribution to help with start up costs.
Trevor Bolin, owner of Remax Action Realty, said realtors were excited to jump on board with their support.
“We saw the opportunity to aid what they can do to ensure the community stays safe no matter what our growth rate looks like,” Bolin said.
Sustained funding will depend on how successful the program is, Bolin said. Still, several realtors have already committed their homes to the program, he said, adding that will go along way in recruiting new homebuyers into the program.
“Nothing gets the word out faster than 35 realtors moving the houses in Fort St. John,” Bolin said.
“The amount of people we see on a daily basis and the fact we’re going to be involved heavily ourselves, we’re excited.”
Coe said the funding will allow her to visit schools to teach kids about the program, and encourage parent advisory councils to hop on board.
“I have to get into the schools to teach the children about it,” she said.
“If we just rely on word of mouth, that’s not enough.”
Program a chance to reconnect communities
The Block Parent program has been inactive in B.C. since about 2005, though it continues across much of the country. The program is a network of homes that offer a safe space if someone is being bullied, is injured or lost, or caught in severe weather on the streets.
Anyone can be a Block Parent, although an extensive criminal record check is required, along with a meeting between volunteers and the local board running the program.
Coe said she was sprung to action earlier this spring after reading a post on social media where members of the community had called police after seeing a nine-year-old boy walking home alone from school.
Coe found the response heavy handed. She hopes a Block Parent program will restore community engagement out on the streets instead of behind computer screens, and remind residents their streets are safe.
“Social media connects us on the surface, but we don’t connect in person anymore,” said Coe.
Programs like Block Parents can help to lower crime rates in neighbourhoods by encouraging people to get to know one another, said Coe.
“I was a block parent family (when I was young),” she said.
“We never had anyone come to our house, that I recall, but, we also knew everyone in the neighbourhood.”
Coe said she still needs to figure out how to get surrounding communities, including Charlie Lake, Rose Prairie, Baldonnel, and even Fort Nelson, can get involved.
“I’m not sure if there’s enough people for an organization (in those areas),” she said.
“Would it be easier to incorporate them with us, and we go up once a month for the inspections and follow up?”
Coe has launched a Facebook group. Updates can be found by visiting https://www.facebook.com/groups/1560394967543974.