They’ve been around for decades, and play a vital role in your community’s wellness, and yet many people still do not fully comprehend the work of El’dad in Southeast Manitoba.
Kevin Drain is the current Director of Operations with El’dad and Initiatives For Just Communities.
El’dad was started in the 80s by Gerda and Addison Klassen, originally designed with the goal of providing second chances to young men at odds with the law. They received support through the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
“One of the things that MCC does is it develops programs with the intent of having them graduate, to become their own entity,” Drain clarifies. “Around 2009, there was talk about having El’dad graduate out. The Mennonite Central Committee took a look at some of the other programs in development, and bundled them together into an umbrella organization called Initiatives For Just Communities in 2011.”
Initiatives For Just Communities includes the following programs:
El’dad- a multifaceted program that provides residential support and vocational training for people with intellectual disabilities.
Touchstone- assistance for adults and youth with FASD, including support, advocacy, and community education.
Open Circle- a prison visitation program that connects volunteers with people who are incarcerated, who are often separated or marginalized from their community.
Circles Of Support and Accountability (COSA)- connecting volunteers to people leaving corrections who are at a high risk to offend, helping them reintegrate and avoid reoffending.
The common thread tying these four branches together is a restorative justice approach to support.
Additionally, their Alternative Justice Program supports men who are in conflict with the law, providing support for short periods of time, usually a year or two, just long enough to help them escape the cycle.
“We try to provide them with life skills, a chance to build up their self-esteem, as well as tool kits they can use when things get tough.”
El’dad is also expanding its Home Share into Winnipeg, after seeing great success of this high demand program in the Southeast.
“It’s similar to fostering,” Drain explains. “But where fostering is a parent-child relationship, Home Share is more like a supportive roommate, someone sharing the space full time.”
Other options include residential homes and cluster homes- multi-unit dwellings housing a few participants and a staff member.
“Here, people get a chance to learn what it’s like living on their own, having their own apartment, requiring less and less support.”
Drain says the main goal at El’dad, like all their programs, is to cultivate a culture of growth.
“We are helping people develop the skills necessary to be employed, or to live successfully on their own,” Drain says. “And the nice thing about these programs is that they all work in unison. For example, somebody requiring a lot of support in a residential model could eventually move into a home share model, receiving less intensive supports. Then, they develop skills, move into a cluster home, have their own apartment… and develop those skills even more. Eventually, they’re on their own, and thriving. This doesn’t work for everybody, but we’ve had some really good success stories.”
The most common misconception about El’dad is that it only supports men. This was true until a decade ago. Today, numbers are nearly equal between men and women. Another misconception is that El’dad only supports people that have come into conflict with the law.
“This is mainly because of our justice program, and also because of how the program started. But it’s not true anymore.” Drain elaborates, “The justice program is a relatively small part of our organization. Most of the people that we support were never involved in corrections.”
“Also, we are not an exclusively Christian organization,” Drain adds, listing off one more misconception. “While we have our roots with MCC, we are a faith-based organization. We’re inclusive of all faiths, both with our staff members and the people we support.”
While most funding comes from the government, as a nonprofit charitable organization, El’dad is always accepting donations. The upcoming increase in wage for direct support workers from an average of $15.11 to $19.00 hourly will also greatly improve services.
“We don’t know exactly how that’s all going to translate, and how it’s going to affect our wage scale,” Drain admits. “But we are certainly looking forward to the increase, and the acknowledgement that the work that we do, especially the frontline workers, is valued, and is at least on the way of becoming compensated fairly for the work that they do.”
For more information on Initiatives For Just Communities and El’dad’s work in your community, visit www.initiativesjc.org.