That’s the sentiment a few Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Community Engagement Team (CET) officers hoped to express when they stopped by Pregnancy Pathways to say, ‘Hello,’ while dropping off a donation on October 2.
“Building these relationships are so important because they allow us to make connections with families, and with community organizations that work with these families, that are constantly striving to make positive changes in their lives,” said EPS Sergeant Rebecca Wright of the CET.
The EPS’s Community Engagement Team works to build and maintain community relationships within Edmonton. By establishing partnerships with the community, CET officers can better understand community perceptions of crime and disorder while also providing feedback based on these concerns.
“These informal visits really give both sides a chance to get to know a little bit more about one another,” said Sgt. Wright. “These moms are more than the circumstances they find themselves in, and in turn they’re able to see that EPS officers are more than our uniforms.”
Collaborating with various community supporters, Pregnancy Pathways program is a unique partnership of 25 community stakeholders from health care, addictions, mental health, government and non-profit sectors that work to address the unmet housing and support service needs of pregnant women experiencing homelessness in Edmonton.
A division of Boyle McCauley Health Centre, the women who join the program are homeless, pregnant and can live independently with the supports that are made available to them.
“The women who participate in the program are really trying and working to make a better life for themselves and their children,” said Nancy Peekeekoot, Wellness Coordinator of the Pregnancy Pathways program.
“Many have had different histories with trauma or faced challenges in their lives, which can include addictions they’re trying to overcome or mental health issues. They really need more than just a roof over their head to help them build a home for themselves, and that’s what we try to do for them.”
Providing around-the-clock care, the program operates in an apartment building with 24-7, on-site staff who are there to provide immediate support to clients, linking women to healthcare, treatment and other supports they may need while helping them build life and parenting skills.
“We hold a number of group get-togethers,” said Peekeekoot, who explained that they try to create a comfortable space for these women to come together to support and learn from one another, and to develop positive community relationships while navigating motherhood.
“We currently have six suites that house six clients and their infants, and as space becomes available, we will have the ability to expand to have 12 suites.”
“We feel that it is important for our participants to develop and maintain a trusting relationship with the EPS so that they can effectively work on moving forward as a Mother,” added Lesley Spry-Shandro, Assistant Team Lead, Client Support Worker at Pregnancy Pathways.
“The relationship with the EPS has been in place since the beginning of our program. The participants and their partners have had negative experiences in the past but were able to learn to turn to the members that they have come to know. Over time, they were able to lessen any anxiety associated with the uniform and see them as people who help them when they have warrants, need EPOs, get donations, have a Christmas meal made for them by the members, and just have a nice conversation some days when you need it most.”
In opening their doors and letting EPS officers into their homes to engage with their clients, members are able to have organic, one-on-one conversations, to see how everyone is doing, and if there’s anything the Service can do to assist them in this time of change, explained Sgt. Wright.
“We recognize and see the value in the work that this program is doing in building and maintaining community relationships, connecting these women to supports and services they might not otherwise know about or have limited access too, while also trying to help them get back on their feet. As members, we want them to know that we’re here to assist them in any way that we can.”