Carli Berry/Capital News Ryan Holt works on a light during the FortisBC REnEW program where he learns valuable construction skills Wednesday at a Pathways Abilities Society house on Bouvette Street.

REnEW program gives chance for a new opportunities

The FortisBC program in Kelowna gives those who are down on their luck a chance to get back up

Ryan Holt is hoping he will see his nine-year-old son before his son’s next birthday.

Holt has been trying to put his life together, working in the FortisBC REnEW program, which helps those who have faced employment barriers to get skills and certifications for entry-level construction positions.

He’s been clean for six months, he said, and is hoping by completing the program and getting a job, he’ll get the chance to reconnect with his son, who he hasn’t seen in three years.

Currently, he is homeless and spends his nights at the Gospel Mission.

“I’ve missed out on so much,” he said. “(My wife) knows that I need him and he needs me.”

Related: Man’s best friends are his barrier to housing

Holt is one of the eight construction participants on site, installing windows and solar tubes at a duplex owned by the Pathways Abilities Society.

Brenden Ferguson, 21, is another participant in the program.

He said it’s been a rewarding experience helping those with disabilities, as his aunt has Down syndrome.

“It’s been a very successful program for us and it’s something that we really enjoy continuing on and it’s great to see the participants learn some skills and really thrive and get back into the working world,” said Shelley Thomson, community and aboriginal relations manager at FortisBC.

“What we’re trying to do here is give livability,” said program coordinator Andrea Sage. “They are ready to go to work as soon as it’s done here.”

The program has been around since 2010 and, for the first time, has been affected by the opioid crisis.

Sage said they lost an applicant to an overdose and others dropped out due to the nature of the incident.

They do see numbers drop from the initial 12 from time to time in previous years said Thomson, but this is the first time they’ve seen an applicant lost due to an overdose.

Related: MDs partially to blame for opioid crisis, says Kelowna man

“Through the program, 12 participants receive two weeks of in-class training, delivered at Okanagan College, which includes construction safety-related certifications,” according to a FortisBC news release.

“It is followed by two weeks of hands-on practice, and for select participants, two weeks of work experience with a local builder. Participants who complete the program are also shown paths to further their education and receive ongoing employment search support through the John Howard Society for up to three months,” states FortisBC.

This year’s energy efficiency project will take place at a duplex owned and operated by Pathways Abilities Society, a local service organization that helps people with developmental disabilities gain greater independence.

“REnEW participants will install solar tubes to increase natural light, replace several windows and doors to improve air tightness and energy efficiency and install energy-efficient lighting. The work will help lower energy costs and increase comfort for residents over the long term.”

Executive director Charisse Daley of Pathways said the nonprofit is grateful for the program and the tenants of the building are “thrilled.”

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