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'Really, really special': New Social Services HQ brings all agencies under one roof

Starting on April 9, clients accessing Ontario Works, Early Years and Housing Services can do so at one desk in the all-new Social Services office at 548 Albert St. E.

For the first time in over 25 years, all of the services provided by Social Services in Sault Ste. Marie will be operated under one roof, with clients only having to deal with one desk.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Tuesday for the new Social Services office at 548 Albert St. E., which integrates the services of Social Housing, Ontario Works, Children’s Services and Community Paramedicine.

Mike Nadeau, CEO of Social Services Sault Ste. Marie, said previously clients would be serviced by three different desks in three different buildings in the city. When a plan was hatched about 10 years ago to explore the idea of a new office, the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB) directed that those services should all be offered from a single desk.

"They wanted to have one customer front counter so that people would stop telling their story three four or five times," said Nadeau.

Currently, Social Services is using a number of properties in the city, including Housing Services at 180 Brock St., and Ontario Works and Early Years head office, which is located at 540 Albert St. E. Additionally, it leases office space at 390 Bay St. and its Community Paramedicine program is operated out of 178 Drive In Rd.

Nadeau said those properties are leased, aside from the 540 Albert location, which is owned by the DSSAB. The leases in those other locations are set to expire, said Nadeau, and all of those services will be operated out of the new building starting on April 9.

"This is the first time in 25 years almost to the day that all DSSAB staff have been able to gather and work out of one office building," said Nadeau.

The only DSSAB-run service that won't be operated out of the new building is Paramedic Services, which will continue to be housed at 65 Old Garden River Rd.

On hand for Tuesday's ribbon cutting event were Mayor Matthew Shoemaker, MPP Ross Romano and DSSAB board chair Stephanie Hopkin, along with dozens of Social Service employees, current and former board members, and numerous community partners.

"In my short time as director and as board chair, I can tell you with confidence that there are endless advantages to having our services come together in this building," said Hopkin. "Now more than ever we have to innovate and create efficiencies when it comes to serving Sault Ste. Marie residents, including our marginalized populations."

Shoemaker said the staff at the new four-storey building will assist the most vulnerable members in the community to address significant barriers and problems that they face in their everyday lives.

"I want to thank the board for committing to the downtown with this new build and the investment in this area represents a significant redevelopment of property in our downtown area," the mayor said.

Romano said the DSSAB has been central to a number of good news announcements in the city as of late, and took the opportunity to thank the employees and community partners who were present at the ribbon cutting. 

"You don't get a crowd like this all that often and when you do get a crowd like this, it's really, really special moments," said Romano. "It really demonstrates the value of an organization and the people that form that organization and for everybody that's here today."

Asked about the plans for the DSSAB-owned former Ontario Works building at 540 Albert St. E., which once served as an LCBO location, Nadeau said it will be repurposed with plans to be announced at a future date.

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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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