2015 was significant for Waypoints, formerly the Fort McMurray Family Crisis Society, for several reasons. Over and above a new name and brand identity, the organization completed its first year of operating The Compass, a residential complex in Stonecreek serving Second Stage and Housing First clients, and the general community.

According to Kathleen Thompson, Outreach Manager, 14 of the 78 units in the building are dedicated to Second Stage clients; 13 apartments and a Child Development Centre.

“It’s not only a place to live; it is programming to support clients through their recent experiences of domestic violence that provides them with information as to how to overcome and start anew.”

The social enterprise element of The Compass – renting suites to the general market – means that tenants are in close proximity to people coming off the street to be in their first home in a long time and others who are at risk of being on the street.

“It takes a certain type of tenant to embrace what The Compass is all about,” said Michele Taylor, Executive Director. “The rent that they pay is not only competitive throughout the community; it also supports social programs. That is very meaningful to many of the people who reside here.”

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We visited with a small group of Waypoints staff members – there are now over 50 people employed by the organization – on a cold day in early February. Trauma counsellors, program coordinators, and a property manager shared their passions for wanting to work on the front lines of providing women and children with hope after having fled from situations of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Workshops organized by Kaitlyn Bruce, a part-time volunteer coordinator, have made a profound difference.

“This one client, she was expressing how she was having a hard time with her boys (on a day when a workshop was running),” shared Bruce. “For her to be able to drop off the kids (in the and relax made a huge difference. We were listening to music, chit-chatting and having a great time. By the end of it you could tell her stress level was alleviated.”

Funded by the United Way, the volunteer coordinator and the workshops facilitated by people in the community who donate their time and expertise, help generate self-esteem and social interactions.

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“The workshops combat the seclusion that these women feel,” said Michelle Taylor. “They are very secluded by high stress and are very vulnerable. It’s very healthy for them to get out doing arts and crafts, having fun together and socializing.”

The journey from the Fort McMurray Family Crisis Society to Waypoints was not without its unique set of twists and turns.

“We knew we wanted to change the name,” said Taylor. “Our clients expressed concern about our previous one. It was not only hard to remember, but they also didn’t like when it came up on their phone. We set out to find something that was two syllables and easy to remember. It also had to make sense with our three pillars of domestic violence, sexual assault and homelessness.”

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Over 100 names were suggested from the community including wayfinding terms like Polaris, Lighthouse, Pathways and others. In the end, three options were presented to the board.

“I was at my wit’s end because we had gone through this whole process of a few months, come down to the wire, to the last three names, and the board didn’t want any of them.”

That night, the board chair, Cliff Dimm, went on his computer and started doing a whole bunch of Google searches. He eventually found “Waypoints”.

“It’s a fairly new word, but it encompasses all the ideas that people were giving us,” said Taylor. “It’s just fantastic and everybody loved it immediately.”

The formal name is actually Waypoints Community Services Association, but the brand has been strongly established.

“Waypoints,” said Taylor. “It sticks.”