Challenge and Encouragement – The Role of Peer Health and Shelter to Housing


Yesterday we posted about the upcoming Kindred Spirit BBQ happening today, Thursday at 5:30 at Kitchener City Hall.

Now I am happy to share an interview that Doug Rankin conducted with Clarence, an active community member working and walking beside people experiencing homelessness.  Clarence has his own lived experience to share, and a strong focus on the importance of community.  He will also be one of the two peopled recognized for their contributions locally.

What did you do as a Peer Health Worker at the Men’s Hostel?

I built relationships with people, and then supported them by listening and helping them solve problems. I would let them know what resources are available in the community so they had some points for accessing health care, housing, employment, food, clothing, and a lot of other resources. I was very positive and supportive of the men and would provide a lot of encouragement to them. And I was there to support them when they were ready move forward and make bigger changes.

Were a lot of people you supported ready for big changes?

Not everyone is ready for change and that’s okay – I accept people where they are at – and I let residents know I am their equal, no higher, no lower. Sometimes I would just listen and I think that’s important. A lot of people I work with are at a place in life where they feel like nobody is listening. But I ask people what I can do to help them.   I ask them what they are hoping for in life, what their goals are. Several men I worked with were ready to deal with long-standing issues like their health, addiction, family conflict, going back to school.

How did you know you were successful?

I would see residents who followed up on our conversations by accessing resources and getting additional health or other supports in the community. Many men I worked with accessed physical or mental health services. Many of them got housing with my support. People would ask for me at the hostel after hearing from other residents who worked with me. I always thought a word of mouth referral was a good sign. Some would come back to the hostel to see me and check in and let me know how things are going. One guy didn’t want to talk with me until his second stay at the shelter – now he always says that I’m part of his extended family I feel honoured to be a support to him.

Did you like being a Peer Health Worker?

I loved it. It was a privilege to be a part of people’s journey and help support them. I tried to be there for people to provide non-judgmental support whatever issue people had. I was also able to share what I’ve done in my life and help energize them to explore themselves. I helped people process their own change in their terms, helping them with the steps. I liked making the most out of each visit with people.

What are you doing now?

I’m working as a Shelter to Housing Outreach Worker here at Men’s Hostel. And I’m in the Social Service Worker, Indigenous Knowledge program at Anishinabek Educational Institute and Loyalist College. I’m learning how to give back to my community by doing social work in a holistic approach that knows how native people feel culturally about colonization, resident schools and oppression. Oppression has had a negative inter-generational impact that is passed down. Many people don’t understand this broader context. It results in some people having shame and I am learning how to be aware of oppression and its impact. With cultural knowledge and my own experience I am able to gently challenge and encourage members of my community and let them know they are worthy, original people.

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One Response to “Challenge and Encouragement – The Role of Peer Health and Shelter to Housing”

  1. A Call to Action from Kindred Spirits | Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] since 1939 « Quiet Moments of Community – Downtown and at Your Kitchen Table Challenge and Encouragement – The Role of Peer Health and Shelter to Housing […]

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