Nicole Jackson wants to make sure everyone in Fort Macleod has a place to call home.
Jackson began her five-month contract last week as the new housing support worker for the Fort Macleod Affordable Housing Committee.
Funded by the Alberta Rural Development Network, the housing support program is intended to help individuals and families find stable housing.
Jackson, who grew up on a farm between Diamond City and Shaughnessy and who now lives in Lethbridge, graduated in April from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in social work.
Jackson did a four-month practicum as a probation officer at Lethbridge Correctional Centre and did her senior practicum doing counselling in the aboriginal department at the jail.
“That is definitely what I loved,” Jackson said of doing individual counselling and running group therapy sessions. “I loved doing that.”
Jackson and her husband, who is also studying social work in Lethbridge, have for six years run a recreation camp for children with disabilities.
Jackson was drawn to the housing support program by the chance to help people improve their situation in life.
Jackson also likes the chance to put her own stamp on a new position.
“That’s kind of why I like it,” Jackson said. “I really like being creative. I like to come up with new ideas.”
One of Jackson’s first jobs is to create an intake process for people who want support finding stable housing.
Part of the intake process will involve Jackson getting to know people and their situation regarding housing.
“I’d like to get some insight into their housing issues and help them move forward,” Jackson said.
Jackson will help people apply for housing subsidies and explain the responsibilities of tenants and landlords.
Another early task for Jackson involves creating a directory of available rental accommodation.
“Part of my job is to be a liaison between tenants and landlords,” Jackson said.
Fort Macleod in general will benefit as people find stable, affordable housing.
“The philosophy comes from the Housing First Initiative,” Jackson said. “People cannot deal with any social issue if their needs aren’t met.”
Once people have a stable, safe and affordable place to live, they can begin to look for work or deal with issues such as addiction.
When people find jobs and get help with problems and utilize available resources that will benefit the community at large.
“There’s fewer people who are transient, fewer people using emergency services,” Jackson said. “There would be less crime, fewer calls to the police.”
Children would benefit from a more stable home life, which in turn benefits Fort Macleod schools.
There would be other benefits, such as landlords having fewer problems with tenants.
Everyone who has housing issues is welcome to use the Fort Macleod housing support program.
“We’re not trying to just target people at risk,” Jackson said. “We look at it as a preventative service to for people who are in unstable housing.”
The services Jackson provides are confidential.
Jackson will be in Fort Macleod from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. People can reach her at her office in the FCSS building or by phone at 403-892-4695.
It is hoped that over the five months of the program Fort Macleod can build a case for continued funding.
“If we can show government there is a need for this in Fort Macleod maybe we can get more funding,” said Jackson, who fielded five calls in her first three days on the job last week. “There’s a larger need than people see.”
Jackson plans to get out into the community to spread the word about the housing support program and welcomes the chance to speak to groups.
Jackson encourages people to use the housing support program.
“I want to hear from anyone in need who feels they could use some support in housing,” Jackson said.