The John Howard Society has been slowly making plans to establish itself in North Bay.
The organization, which advocates to improve living conditions for men in custody, has been meeting with interested individuals with a simple goal: make sure those in custody in North Bay have a North Bay group to support them.
The organization has been in operation in Ontario since 1929, and its Sudbury affiliate has been in operation since 1960.
North Bay has never had a strong presence, so the society’s Sara Berghammer has been in North Bay several times in the last few months, to continue her recruitment work.
This week, while in meetings in North Bay, she commented on how pleased she is so far with the response from city residents willing to help those in custody.
Berghammer says the North Bay commitment is crucial.
“What we’re looking to bring to North Bay is sustainable service to people who are in custody. I don’t want to fly in from Sudbury once a month just to offer some kind of day program. I would like something to be sustainable. And whether I am in North Bay or not I would like to see stuff grow and flourish and I’d like to see people step in and volunteer some of their time as well to offer assistance for those in custody. “
Berghammer admits she has something of a clean slate.
There aren’t a lot of things available to those who are incarcerated in North Bay, including plans to help them get ready to leave the jail, in an attempt to prevent them from returning.
Berghammer says having input on what North Bay residents can offer those in custody is crucial.
“Whether that be a library program like we’re thinking about or pre-release planning or programs themselves. That’s essentially where we’re looking at spending most of our time. But at the same time we’re speaking to people in the community who are from the community who know what’s best for the community.”
The next step in the process is to get the interested individuals together, to make some serious plans about where, and how, the John Howard Society, can find a foothold in the city.
“I’ve asked those people who are interested to come to an evening meeting on November 2nd, where we essentially meet and greet. We get together and we have introductions so people know who’s wanting to be involved and having some discussions on a larger scale.”
Berghammer hopes from that meeting, John Howard can then start the process of helping those in custody in North Bay make the right choices when they are there, and when they leave.