Penticton and Area Access Society
Our Impact Why We Exist
To alleviate the effects of poverty on individuals and families in Penticton and the South Okanagan Similkameen Region which includes Oliver, Osoyoos, Keremeos, and the Penticton Indian Band and Summerland.
Our Story What We Do
The Penticton and Area Access Centre (PAAS) has its origins in the Penticton and Area Women's Centre (PAWC). PAWC was formed over 30 years ago when the BC Provincial Government had a Ministry of Women's Equality. This ministry, as well as the federal Status of Women, provided core funding that allowed PAWC to network with other non profits in Penticton to promote equality and educate them on issues that impacted women. To this end, PAWC focused on women centred events such as International Women's Day and Take Back the Night. PAWC was the first Penticton non profit to sponsor the Share the Spirit Christmas program, and had the contract to present Miss Infinity, a project that promoted careers in science for women. In time, the Ministry of Women's Equality was cancelled and the Status of Women began to fund only specific projects, so PAWC had to find other funders and to shift its focus to meet the requirements of these funders. The Centre remained a safe place where women could meet and find out about community supports.
The Centre became a resource and referral place that was funded by B.C. Gaming. As an extension of this program, PAWC began to help individuals with disability applications, a program that was quickly overwhelmed as the demand for help was far greater than available resources. During this period, PAWC also received funding for specific projects such as a booklet cataloguing free and low cost services for persons living on low income in Penticton. Initially, this project was targeted towards safety for female workers but quickly evolved as a way for both men and women to connect with resources. Funding from the Law Foundation allowed PAWC to offer the services of a legal advocate to assist with poverty law issues such as tenancy or income security. PAWC retained its feminist philosophy and values. PAWC received funding for an outreach worker in the South Okanagan to work with the community to develop resources to assist not only transient workers, but others in the areas that are in need. The PAWC legal and disability advocates were soon working with clients in this area. It became apparent that PAWC was now focussed on the relief of poverty for both men and women. The CRA endorsed income tax program now offered at the Centre is a further example of this. This was a very good fit.
Although clients had no trouble finding us, a survey showed that the broader community had no idea what PAWC did, and there was considerable confusion as to whether we were actually South Okanagan Women in Need (SOWINS) or South Okanagan Victims Assistance (SOVAS). This made requests for funding from the community very difficult. In addition to this, PAWC did not have charity status. There were clauses in the constitution that could not be modified that made charity status impossible to get. After much consultation, a new charitable society, Penticton and Area Access Society, was incorporated and the funding and mandates of PAWC have been rolled into the Penticton and Area Access Society. Officially in May 2013, PAWC became the Penticton and Area Access Society (PAAS). In 2013-2014 PAAS had over 11,000 requests and in 2014-2015, once the fiscal year is over there will be over 12,000 requests. Our mandate remains the same.
Our Programs How We Do It
> To relieve poverty by providing services, referrals and support programs available to people who live in poverty and who are marginalized because of their poverty by ensuring they are given all the information, fill out all the forms and are aware of their rights for financial assistance for themselves and their families. > To establish and operate legal advocacy services to low income residents of Penticton and surrounding area, which includes Oliver, Osoyoos, Keremeos, Summerland and the Penticton Indian Band. > To provide advocacy services, referrals, assistance and support to persons with disabilities > To assist persons of low income with filling out their tax forms. This is the first step in persons receiving income assistance. There are several income assistance opportunities that they will not qualify for if they do not fill out their income tax forms. We will do up to ten years of past income tax forms for individuals. > To provide education and information on a series of topics regarding the above named programs by doing presentations, workshops, seminars and by the distribution of print material applicable to our programs and what other organizations can assist people with.
What You Can Do
People can help by volunteering at the Access Centre whether as receptionists, advocates, maintenance or income tax preparers. You can help by donating personal hygiene products for our free shelf. You can donate money as the funding we receive officially is ear marked for specific programs. There is little funding for working on additional programs, or for much needed equipment, we seem to have to purchase second hand equipment.
People can assist by spreading the word about our services, and be prepared to tell their stories if they have been assisted by the Access Centre.