Centre for Community Outreach and Care coordinator Ashleigh Martinflatt and King Arthur Court property manager Fred Williams are looking forward to seeing VIU Child and Youth Care students working alongside tenants from the 36-unit housing complex.

Centre for Community Outreach and Care coordinator Ashleigh Martinflatt and King Arthur Court property manager Fred Williams are looking forward to seeing VIU Child and Youth Care students working alongside tenants from the 36-unit housing complex.

VIU students focus on quality of life at Nanaimo’s King Arthur Court

NANAIMO – Child and youth care program aims to help residents at Harewood complex.

By Dane Gibson

What started as a conversation between Vancouver Island University’s Centre for Community Outreach and Care coordinator Ashleigh Martinflatt and King Arthur Court property manager Fred Williams has led to the development of a year-long project that will see VIU Child and Youth Care students working on quality of life issues raised by residents of this Harewood housing complex.

VIU’s Centre for Community Outreach and Care is focused on providing practical child- and family-focused learning experiences for students by working with the Harewood community. The project under development between the centre and King Arthur Court will give four students unique and challenging learning experiences – the kind of they will be able to draw on when they transition to a career in the community wellness field.

The first step of the new initiative was for students to hear concerns from the residents. To do that, a barbecue and community meeting was organized at a nearby school. Third-year practicum student Deneal Woolridge knocked on every door in King Arthur Court to explain why a meeting was being called and to encourage tenants to come out.

More than 140 residents showed up. Members of the Lantzville Lions Club donated the food and cooked a meal for everyone who attended.

Carol Stuart, dean of health and human services, said what struck her about the follow-up discussions was how deeply impacted the child and youth care students were to learn that there were so many families living in King Arthur Court.

In 2010 the City of Nanaimo designated King Arthur Court, which is a 36-unit housing complex, a nuisance property.

“Afterwards the students understood in a very real way the impact of poverty, the importance of building community and creating a safe place to live. They could see how the tenants looked out for each other,” said Stuart. “Out of these initial learnings, our students will work with the people that live in the complex to help develop solutions that will attempt to address their concerns and improve community supports and quality of life at King Arthur Court.”

Williams says the reputation of the complex was built up over decades and he admits there have been issues in the past. However, he also said that the tenants are keen to help shift perceptions of the property and he believes working with VIU’s faculty and students on this project will help.

“Sure there are problems, we’re not denying that, but when I took the job of property manager in 2015 we began cleaning things up. To do that I worked closely with our tenants. Through that process I could see that the majority of people at King Arthur Court are good people just trying to get by,” said Williams. “Once I got to know them, I could see they deserved to be treated better and not labelled just because of the place they live. I knew that improving relationships with service providers, community organizations and our neighbours would be a good place to start and we welcome the support of VIU’s Centre to help us with that.”

The Centre for Community Outreach and Care refers all projects to a community advisory board, made up of School District 68, Canadian Mental Health Association, RCMP, City of Nanaimo and other Harewood community representatives, for approval, which it granted.

“With the help of our community partners and our Child and Youth Care students, we are going to do what we can to bring the suggestions that came from the people who live there to life and at the same time provide exceptional practicum work experiences for our students,” said Martinflatt.

Dane Gibson is a writer with VIU’s communications department.