Opportunity to create new Jack Allen Community Hub

Published on 10 August 2017

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The announcement by Cambridge Street Medical Centre to build a new modern primary health facility that will increase the number of health services in Levin/Taitoko has been welcomed.

The proposal includes the purchase of several Council-owned properties in Durham Street – Jack Allen House and several empty car parks that back on to the Levin Adventure Playground.

Jack Allen House is a community NGO hub for a number of local organisations that provide a safety net for residents in Levin/Taitoko. It is run by Contact Incorporated which was established in 1971. In 1998, the services were moved to the current location, a house in Durham Street. This was made possible by the generosity of prominent businessman Jack Allen of Allen Drapery.

Horowhenua District Mayor and MidCentral District Health Board Member Michael Feyen says the proposal is exciting and is looking forward to seeing the progress.

“Our community is struggling with too few GPs and too few health facilities – left unchecked, it will only get worse.”

He says the development will help alleviate some of the issues. “But, more can always be done and I believe the Ministry of Health and MidCentral District Health Board are working hard to address our communities’ health needs.”

“Together, we will work with the sector to strengthen the web of support in our community for those who are isolated and in need.”

Jack Allen House is run by Contact Inc. which owns part of the property. Manager Eleanor Gully says while it’s a bit of a shock, Horowhenua is desperate for improved health service and continuity of care.

“Our community is crying out for higher levels of health care service, and this development is part of the answer,” she says.

“While it is a lot to take in, I’m comforted that Council will work with us and the NGO’s that operate from Jack Allen House. Our current building is great – but it's awful cold in winter, and the heating costs are too high.”

Councillor Victoria Kaye-Simmons, who is on the Jack Allen House Committee, has been nominated by Elected Members to oversee the process.

“Council officers will carry out a needs assessment of the NGO’s that operate from Jack Allen House, and this will form the basis of a plan going forward.”

The Community Organisation Hub project is led by Community Development Advisor Helen Hayes who is currently working on the Horowhenua Access and Inclusion Forum Plan.

“The project has a short-time frame – a solution needs to be in place by Christmas if the development goes ahead. We are exploring contingency planning with the directly affected organisations and have committed to securing a sustainable, more fit-for-purpose alternative.”

Ms Hayes says Council’s Community Development team have a focus on community resilience and are growing their focus on capacity building in relation to fundraising and community-led planning.

“These efforts will be accelerated in partnership with the NGO sector towards the reestablishment of Jack Allen House at an alternative location.”

Ms Hayes says alongside this, Council is committed to working with the Jack Allen garden steering group towards their vision for the establishing a community garden in the district.

“Council’s Property and Parks Manager Arthur Nelson has formed a team to work with the community garden group to find an alternate location.”

Cr Kaye-Simmons says the news of the development was provided to Elected Members last week.

“The proposal is exciting and will help alleviate our struggling health sector that is overburdened with high needs patients and increasing numbers – currently, 80 new patients a month are being registered,” she says.

“Our focus now, is on supporting those NGO’s in Jack Allen House; we will co-create an engagement project plan with the NGO’s and Contact Inc. to ensure the outcome is fit-for-purpose and fulfills our vision, for an inclusive Horowhenua.”

Cr Kaye-Simmons says it is important to remember that the new health centre is a proposal only at this stage. However, Elected Members have indicated their support for Council Officers to consider the sale of the carparks and Jack Allen House land to enable the proposal to be further developed.

Read news item:  Purpose-built medical centre to transform healthcare in Horowhenua

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Horowhenua District Council community development advisor Helen Hayes, left, and Contact Incorporated chairperson Eleanor Gully at Jack Allen House in Levin.