Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett encourages folks needing wildfire recovery help, whether you are frustrated with forms and delays or you have yet to apply, to come to her constituency office for help and advocacy efforts on your behalf. Carole Rooney photo.

MLA offers assistance in wildfire recovery

Donna Barnett encourages community to stop by her office for help

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett has a message to all of her Cariboo-Chilcotin constituents, whether you suffered any losses in the 2017 wildfire, you are struggling with a lack of support, or you know someone who could use a helping hand cutting through the red tape.

“My office is here and open to advocate for whatever you need.”

Barnett says she wants people to know there is assistance out there and to come to her office to get a helping hand with the answers they are struggling to find, whether on their own or through the various agencies that don’t always come up with the same answers.

“When you need help, you need it now.”

Red Cross has B.C. Fires 2017 Community Partnerships offering money and support that’s available for assisting with everything from trauma counselling and safety/well-being to indigenous programming and disaster risk reduction down the road.

However, folks are getting confused by the differing responses they get depending who they call and giving up on gaining any help, the MLA explains.

“People are getting very frustrated, and then they basically throw their hands up in the air … I’ve had more people tell me ‘I’m not going to bother filling out any more paperwork – I’m done’. But that’s wrong. There is a hardship out there and it has to be dealt with.”

Barnett says there are people coming to her office and she and her staff have been able to get help for some of them and will continue to do all they can for anyone who needs it.

“I don’t want people to feel there is no end alternative for them. My office is the end alternative. Or, they can come here to start with.”

While they obviously can’t help everyone, Barnett says there “needs to be a quicker process” to getting assistance to folks who can’t pay their rent or their mortgage or buy groceries.

“How many times are you going to ask for help, and you get another 1-800 number, or you’re told to go here, go there? With the people who have come here, we have had some very good successes, and we refuse to give in [in seeking support] for people.”

There is assistance for people in various situations, so she wants everyone who needs a hand with recovery needs to go to her office where Barnett says she and her constituency assistant, Beverly Marks, will work together with you to find what you need, with all details held in total confidentiality.

“There’s enough anxiety from the wildfires, people are fearful – very fearful. I talked to a lady in Williams Lake the other day …. and she was telling me she has a daycare, and two-year-olds are fearful, they are still afraid.”

Barnett points to the Sept. 15 release from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development promising people and communities an examination of a range of social services required, including long-term mental-health support.

“There was a promise to get more help for mental health; there is nothing been done, other than a committee has been put together and meeting for months, with no on-the-ground help or funding from the province or Red Cross.”

Barnett cautions the stress and the anxiety stemming from the wildfires and aftermath will only get worse if they don’t get help.

She says a lot of people don’t know what is available out there to help them with their struggles, whether for a family or individual, a society, a business, or another community group that’s been hit by wildfires.

Whatever set folks behind, many will have a hard time to catch up with things like recovery from trauma, a lack of earned or business income while evacuated, or other issues, she adds.

“Those people, too, that were on alert, [many] didn’t go to work, the businesses were shut down, contractors couldn’t go build their houses, loggers didn’t work for two months. The biggest industry we have, a lot of times, is two to three months of tourism, and there were no customers, so people lost their jobs.”

Barnett acknowledges and appreciates the gracious landlords she has heard about as well as a great many other helpful people across the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

She wants to join them in offering her own support and help, and that of her staff, and encourages folks to call 250-395-3916, stop by her office at 6-530 Horse Lake Road, or e-mail donna.barnett.mla@leg.bc.ca for help to get the ball rolling and cut through the red tape.

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