Archive for the ‘Homelessness’ Category

Reflections On Housing And Harm Reduction

October 9, 2015

This is the final part of the series of guest posts considering the topic of housing and harm reduction.  In this piece I am happy to share some reflections from Ron F, House of Friendship’s Residential Services Director.

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(I write these reflections in the early morning setting of a coffee shop in downtown Kitchener. Some of the surrounding tables are occupied by strangers to me, others by people I know as tenants or residents of House of Friendship residential programs. We are all included in this daily community at the caffeine dispensary.)

I really like Sara’s framing of the issue of housing and harm reduction as an issue of community inclusion. This is aligned with our House of Friendship vision of “a healthy community where all can belong and thrive”. Community inclusion and harm reduction approaches both begin with “belonging” by “accepting a person where they are at” without judgement. I believe the goal is not simply “belonging”, but “healthy belonging” where “healthy” refers to a respectful social environment in which everyone’s capabilities are nurtured and accepted as valuable contributions to the community. (more…)

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Healthy Communities Through Harm Reduction

October 7, 2015

In part two of this three part series, Sarah outlined a difficult tension in many social service agencies’s work. Agencies like House of Friendship often walk with people using drugs or struggling with their mental health, which can manifest in behavior likely to be deemed “difficult.” When so-called difficult people are barred or restricted from service, those agencies cannot fulfill their mandate, and individuals who might need the most support receive the least, if any. In this final installment, Sarah picks up on this idea, and explores creative alternatives.

Besides barring people, what might possible alternatives to dealing with substance use or conflict in a social service agency look like? One particular framework seems to offer a different, more inclusive approach. So, today I’ll examine why increasing available harm reduction services, and adopting a harm reduction approach to working with people who use substances may be beneficial for individuals and communities.

Harm reduction is… what?

Harm reduction” means different things to different people, but I’ll say here that it is any policy or program designed to reduce drug-related harm without necessarily requiring the cessation of drug use. In other words, you need not be clean to access services, or whatever. The focus instead is on reducing the harmful consequences associated with drug use. So, harm reduction approaches and practices could include needle exchange programs, methadone clinics, crack pipe kits and “wet shelters,” all of which aim to mitigate harms without requiring abstinence.

From CATIE

The Canadian Harm Reduction Network’s communications often includes the following quotation: “to act and not be acted upon is the essence of joy.” Harm reduction is an active process, or practice. Individuals must engage in self-management, and determine (with support) realistic goals that minimize risk. It is an approach that embraces working with people where they’re at and works to provide access to services regardless of a person’s substance use. (more…)

Community exclusion and ‘difficult’ patrons

October 5, 2015

In her first guest post, Sara started to discuss the relationship between well-being and community inclusion (or not), and the ‘reality’ that many non-profits feel under-equipped to deal some of their patrons who are experiencing mental health issues or are using drugs or alcohol. Today she continues her earlier thoughtful discussion, jumping into a Toronto organization’s survey of folks who have been refused service or have been banned from certain agencies.

In 2013, an organization called Rittenhouse completed a survey of 10 Toronto community organizations that work with these populations and found that 90% of the agencies used barring practices or restricted services as a response to client conflict. Restricting services or barring can involve asking someone to leave or preventing them from entering or accessing the service for any amount of time. Agency staff highlighted the issue that barring practices and service restrictions actually replicate punitive, exclusionary and stigmatizing approaches faced by marginalized individuals in other areas of their lives. However, data gathered through focus groups and workshops with these community organizations demonstrates that staff feel under-qualified to deal with the conflicts that arise in their spaces in non-discriminatory and supportive ways, while balancing the health, safety, and comfort of other clients and staff.

Frank Cotham at The New Yorker

Exclusion negatively affects health

Rittenhouse conducted interviews with another 30 people who identify as current or past drug users and have been barred from a community organization. Many participants reported that the service limitation impacted their access to support services, harm reduction services, and physical health services: 40% of participants reported feeling like the bar resulted in an increase in their risk of violence; 53% felt the bar resulted in an increase in their risk of contact with police; 40%  like they did not get enough chance to talk about what happened; 53% that agency staff did not understand them or their situation; and 53% reported feeling embarrassment, shame, and/or humiliation, among other findings. (more…)

“I Have Always Found a Friend in Music”

September 25, 2014

Today we have a post by Martin and Ashley W from the Men’s Hostel sharing details of a recent event organized by staff and residents

“One of the marvellous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals.  When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing” Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

Charles St. Men’s hostel held its third open mic night at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Thursday August 28th.  The open mic began with a vision to bring people together to share their talents and build a sense of community. We hoped to enact, in a very obvious and practical way, the more abstract HOF value of inclusion, which states that “We believe everyone has a seat at the table.” So we set up tables–thanks for the tables, St. Andrews!–and got to barbecuing, making sure we had enough food and seats for everyone from the community who wanted to eat, or sit and take in the festivities.

Residents from the Hostel and community volunteers were there to assist with food prep and serving.  It was a wonderful experience to see people coming together to help each other and make a contribution even in times of personal struggle.  We were grateful to walk beside these volunteers and participants during this experience and work in partnership as peers in bringing fun and sense of belonging to the community.

Once bodies were nourished, we started the soul-enriching work of making and listening to music.

Guests and participants of all ages came from House of Friendship programs and the community to share.  Over 125 people joined us at St Andrews to enjoy the local talent.  A fantastic local band including a resident of one House of Friendship’s programs volunteered to play for the event. They started off the evening setting the musical mood as one of relaxation and fun.  As the meal came to an end the floor was opened up for anyone to participate in sharing their talents and all in attendance were lucky enough to enjoy some of the talent from our supportive housing residents who brought the church to fits of laughter with their creative jokes and some singing.

The band was excellent in making everyone feel a sense of belonging. In one beautiful and improvised moment, they extended the hand of friendship to a resident who felt inspired to contribute a vocal solo, by using their instrumental talents to compliment his vocals and even including some back-up vocals. And in that moment the delicate joy that happens through shared music sat around us all.

All in all it was a wonderful night and we were inspired by the level of commitment, dedication, and involvement by participants of House of Friendship programming in the prep and running of this community event.  We really could not have done this without the generous assistance of the people we serve and are grateful to be able to work for an organization which encourages such a sense of community. We would finally like to thank St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for making this event possible by allowing us to use their space and graciously being available to help with set up.  We would also like to thank everyone who volunteered or assisted in any way and everyone who simply came to enjoy the event and be with us in this time of sharing and community building.

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

May 8, 2014

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. (more…)

A Call to Action from Kindred Spirits

May 7, 2014

Today I am pleased to share a post by Doug Rankin of the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre (KDCHC).  He has an important message about a great community event coming up this Thursday!  Tomorrow I will share an interview that he did with Clarence, a Shelter to Housing Worker at the Hostel and former Peer Health Worker with KDCHC who will receive an award at this event.

KDCHC_collogo

“We stand here tonight in solidarity with those who are experiencing homelessness and poverty. We all know that without our health we have nothing. Living without a home makes it impossible to maintain health. Every day is a challenge to find food, to stay warm and dry, to search out services, to find shelter, to seek health care, to be safe. Every day, witnessing friends struggling with illness and disease, often dying prematurely. We are a wealthy Region and it is not just that there are those without adequate shelter and living in poverty. No one should have to wait years on a list for affordable housing, sleep in unsafe and unsanitary rooming houses or spend the end of their life dying without a home. We ask you to now observe a moment of silence to show your support and to reflect on the work yet to be done.”

This is what volunteer Kim Wilson said to those attending the 9th Kindred Spirit BBQ last year, calling us to action as a community and highlighting the difficult reality that many live each day. (more…)