Rosie Stehr

Victoria outreach program knitting community

Our Place broadening its reach to Greater Victoria community

  • Feb. 27, 2014 3:00 p.m.

Not everyone who takes in the Sunday knitting and crocheting sessions at Our Place finds themselves with needles or hooks in hand.

Some are content to sit nearby, watching others’ hands work, listening to the conversation and basking in a friendly, non-threatening atmosphere.

Program co-ordinator Melanie Norman, an avid crocheter, welcomes “spectators.” She realizes this weekly gathering is about more than just creating hand-made woolens.

“They’re socializing,” she says.

Between 15 and 20 people take part and relatively few are homeless. And they like to talk, Norman says.

“Everybody has a story to tell from their past about how knitting or crocheting affected them. When they hear the stories it only encourages them; it starts them thinking about what projects they might like to make for children or grandchildren.”

Norman finds working with marginalized citizens uplifting, especially crafting warm items likely to be given as gifts.

“It’s all about love,” she says. “When one lady completed a hat, her hands were shaking, she was so excited. To be a part of that is a real blessing.”

While most knitters come for the camaraderie and to learn technique, one original group member comes in hope of seeing her homeless son taking a meal at Our Place, Norman says.

When the program began in November, Norman paid for hooks and yarn out of pocket at thrift stores and collected donated material. Today the instructors make up kits with material and patterns for such things as slippers, hats or sweaters. They encourage people to work on their projects at home, but also like to have tools and yarn available for newcomers.

Grant McKenzie, communications director for Our Place, said the program is one of several that have opened up its doors to the wider community.

“The definition of our family members is changing, as we’re seeing more working poor and seniors, and people who could just be on their own but are finding a sense of community here,” he said.

The number of programs has doubled in the past year at the downtown service provider, with new offerings including art classes, a choir, general health services plus accu-pressure and massage sessions.

“It’s not just the homeless,” McKenzie said. “We’re offering these types of programs to people who, on their pension, otherwise couldn’t afford them.”

The Our Place experience is not Norman’s first with at-risk populations here since she moved in 2011 from Toronto. She teamed up with knitting fan Angela Young in 2012 to form the North Park Knit and Crochet Charity Group. Its members are largely single moms and people between jobs from the neighbourhood.

That group meets Wednesday evenings at Norman’s workplace, Sands Funeral Chapel, whose parent company, Arbor Memorial, encourages employees to do volunteer work in the community.

Knitting, she says, is just one more way of removing barriers to connection for people.

Just Posted

Oak Bay doctor the pulse of Island’s heart failure clinic

Dr. Elizabeth Swiggum has headed heart clinic for past 14 years

UPDATE: Crown cross-examines Oak Bay dad accused of killing daughters

Andrew Berry is charged in the deaths of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey in 2017

Buffy the audience slayer: St. Marie coming to Sidney

Powerful live shows a big part of veteran Canadian folk star’s success; she’s here Sept. 26-27

Annual study shows high satisfaction with B.C. post-secondary schools

Study also reveals men tend to dominate higher paying jobs in the trades

Pavement work to close Fort Rodd Hill

Historic site scheduled to be closed to public Sept. 3 to 6

Trudeau to meet with U.K. and Japanese prime ministers ahead of G7 summit

French President Emmanuel Macron, this year’s G7 host, has little expectations of a unified front from the leaders

Groups ready campaign to help young voters identify ‘fake news’ in election

The media literacy campaign to focus on identifying misinformation and suspicious sources online

Big rally in northern B.C. draws attention to continuing lumber crisis

Mayor Joan Atkinson says about 400 workers have been directly affected by the closure of the Canfor mill

Orangeville Northmen take Minto Cup at Langley Events Centre

Swept best-of-five series 3-0 over Victoria Shamrocks

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

Dog attacked by river otters, Penticton owner says

Marie Fletcher says her dog was pulled underwater by four river otters in the Penticton Channel

POLL: Should there be a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers?

We’ve all heard them, and most likely cursed them under our breath.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Aug. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read