Carina Costom is the community services navigator at the Nelson Public Library. Photo: Anne DeGrace

CHECK THIS OUT: The anti-quagmire solution

Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week.

Anne DeGrace

This column is about quagmires. It’s also about finding your way out, and into something more comfortable.

Many of us who have tried to navigate various governmental services online or by phone have reached that limb-sucking quicksand of confusion until, by the time we have a human on the line, we’ve forgotten the question. If only someone would just throw us a rope!

Fear not: a rope is at hand. Every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the library plays host to a living, breathing community services navigator.

Carina Costom is there to help provide direction to community services for issues regarding employment and training, safe spaces and services for people in the LGBTQ community, assistance for people with disabilities, and help around issues of homelessness and finding shelter. She’ll help you find your way to child-care subsidies, services for seniors, victim services, refugee and new immigrant supports, aboriginal services, legal assistance, transportation, translation, taxes and a whole lot more.

This new program, a pilot project of Nelson at its Best (formerly SPAN) and funded by the Columbia Basin Trust, is a response to a growing community need.

“We live in a complex world with increasingly fragmented services,” says Carina. “Sometimes translation is helpful. Person, meet system. System, meet person.”

Carina comes to the position with plenty of personal experience and several years’ experience working as an employment facilitator for Kootenay Career Development Services (KCDS). Interactions with a diverse range of job-seekers introduced her to the many kinds of help people were looking for.

“Navigation is not a job, it’s a calling,” she says. “I’m excited because it is time to give back. And it is also time to listen deeply to what questions people are asking so that I may point them in a useful direction. I don’t have the answers, nor do I provide counselling, legal advice or advocacy, but I do know who does and thus can support individuals in mapping possible ways forward. I like taking something that seems difficult and making it more friendly and accessible.”

Friendly? Accessible? Sounds like the best kind of rope.

At the library we pride ourselves in being information navigators. We might point you to the Fetch BC website for Kootenay Boundary, which offers links to services that include mental health, medical resources, addictions, financial support, assistance for children, youth, families and seniors, employment and education, legal resources and advocacy, and even links for culture, recreation, and social opportunities, all available through

Or we might point you towards our legal books, refreshed each year through a grant from Lawmatters BC, or Clicklaw — a Legal Services Society of BC website — or towards our other useful databases such as Consumer Health Complete. And we’re always there to direct folks to the physical help sites such as the Advocacy Centre, ANKORS, KCDS and various government offices.

But to have a human being in the library who is dedicated to helping folks navigate their way out of the metaphorical quicksand and into a happier place — that’s a gift indeed. Carina can also help in two official languages (with assistance in other languages available with advance notice).

“Since I am bilingual, I’ve supported an English-speaking man to understand a form in French. I’ve shared information that connected a young woman to temporary housing and access to local food banks. I’ve pointed another man who was at risk of homelessness toward Nelson Street Outreach and as a result he received a subsidy to help him secure his rent,” she says, noting that whatever the outcome, she’ll try to make sure every community lifeline is within grasp.

Look for the sign-up sheet on the board near our entrance on Wednesdays. The Nelson at its Best community services navigator will be at the library until May.

Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week.

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