Start Me Up Niagara (SMUN) began as one of five sites opened in 1999 by the National Network for Mental Health to offer self employment services to people who self identified as mental health consumer survivors and wanted to start a business. This pilot project was funded by Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) to determine whether self employment was a viable work option that could improve the unacceptably low participation rate of this group in the labour market.
During its first year SMUN found that self employment was a good option for a few people but that others needed different options. It also found that mental illness was only one of the issues that people accessing self employment services faced. Poverty, unemployment, homelessness compounded by disabilities, poor health, isolation impacted lives and created barriers that prevented an acceptable quality of life.
In response to these findings and with the help of community members who wanted to make a difference, Start Me Up Niagara was incorporated as a charitable organization in September 2000. It works with individuals who are having a difficult time at this point in their lives. Start Me Up offers a variety of opportunities that improve health, increase the level of community integration, support housing and employment.
The Work Action Centre was opened in 2017 to expand employment supports for adults living with disabilities in the Niagara Region.
Today Start Me Up Niagara is a busy, happening place open 365 days a year welcoming all who come.
A place to go. A place to be somebody. A place to do something.