North East Outreach and Support Services has a history of providing services to the north east region dating back to 1984. Rick Peters of Melfort has been involved with the organization as a volunteer board member for most of that time. He recently agreed to share his personal history as a volunteer and a history of outreach services in the north east.
In January, 1986, Peters became the coordinator for the Crisis Centre Shelter Project. This service provided shelter for women and children in private homes throughout the north east. The service was advertised through churches and newspapers and provided a maximum stay of five days in safe homes. Peters and two other staff members knew the locations of the private houses in Melfort, Choiceland, Nipawin, Tisdale, and Meskanaw.
In the early 1990’s, Rick Peters served for five years as a board member for the Crisis Centre and was co-chair for a couple of terms.During that time and since then he has witnessed the growth of services provided to north east residents. The first location was in the basement of the present school division office. Women and children were present at this office during the day and at safe homes at night. Peters stated that this system worked for ten years but it became difficult to get people to volunteer to open their homes as safe homes. The organization then moved to an office at Bemister and Main, and finally to the former NEOSS house on McKendry East.
According to Peters, services have changed and evolved throughout the organization’s history.
In the early days, “the community did what it needed to do. People stepped up and took people in no matter what time or when.” They worked closely with the RCMP, Victim Services, and Social Services, through a pager system and later through telephone. Peters said that when they were on call volunteers had to be available twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, they had to be at home because calls were not transferable due to limited technology.
Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s numerous appeals were made to government to build a shelter but without success. There were many appeals and in the last four years the provincial government finally agreed to the need for a shelter. Peters stated, “to see the new shelter is remarkable compared to being in the basement of the Associates Medical Clinic in a simple office.” He said the new shelter is the culmination of thirty years of work by the original group, the North East Sexual Assault Centre, The North East Crisis Centre, and presently, North East Outreach and Support Services. Peters said that decisions are made based on whether there is a resource that women and children can go to safely. He believes that the new shelter is such a resource which will greatly increase the safety of women and children in North East Saskatchewan.