Streetohome is looking at strategies on how best to connect people, knowledge and resources to ensure a more robust homelessness service system.
Smart Cities – Life Intentions
Disconnection from services and the impact of stigma on individuals with lived experience of homelessness or at-risk of homelessness are two obstacles each person faces. The Smart Cities – Life Intentions initiative will explore opportunities to alleviate the effects of these two issues, and will provide vulnerable individuals (i.e., living on the street or in shelters; supportive housing and single room occupancy hotels – ‘SROs’; exiting foster care, corrections and addiction treatment and recovery housing; and people new to Vancouver) with a unique opportunity to:
- Identify their: housing; health & wellness; legal & advocacy; education, skills & training; employment & volunteering; and/or community & belonging needs;
- Determine a priority to focus their efforts on today;
- Review an array of support services and opportunities catalogued in a database and narrowed down by their preferences in search of a best fit; and
- A goal setting, progress tracking log that enhances motivation and assists with goal attainment.
Streetohome has created, focus tested and piloted two paper tools that are now available to all in Vancouver (i.e., families, individuals, support workers, hospitals, police, libraries, outreach teams, addiction treatment and recovery programs, foster care, corrections and people new to Vancouver).
The first tool – Exploring Your Life Intentions – provides an opportunity for individuals to self-assess their goals in multiple domains. The tools are intended to be self-administered, although some individuals may require assistance. Individuals are provided with an opportunity to identify a focus for today and work through a goal setting, motivation enhancement and progress tracking exercise.
The second tool – Guide to Services – provides a list of resources in Vancouver that can help individuals move along their preferred life path. A template is available for other municipalities wanting to develop a similar guide – please contact Arielle at [email protected] to receive the template. Streetohome collaborates with Social Justice Practicum students at Adler University to populate the Guide to Services and keep the information current.
The potential of a digital application is also being explored. An online portal would provide a custom-tailored list of resources specific to each individual’s identified needs, goals and preferences, alongside notifications and reminders to enhance goal attainment as well as the ability to save and secure personal information and track progress on multiple goals over time. Advantages may include: broader access; easier and faster navigation; and an ideal matching of an individual’s unique needs and preferences to services available.
Recovery Community Centre and Recovery Café Models
The Recovery Community Centre (RCC) and Recovery Café model will provide a meaningful sense of belonging and connection to a positive peer group, while creating opportunities to help those coming up behind them.
Many Vancouverites go from participating in intensive and expensive outpatient or live-in recovery programs, where they have access to a multitude of program supports and 24-7 peer support, to the opposite extreme – fully detaching from these supports and becoming relatively isolated within not only their familiar home community, but also their newfound recovery community.
Compounding feelings of disconnection are challenges in learning to avoid the usual people, places and things when returning to everyday life following treatment. Some individuals develop a self-care plan and may arrange follow-up appointments with a physician and/or attend a self-help group or two; however, many individuals struggle and are often discouraged when neither a good fit, nor a sense of belonging are experienced in their home community.
Recovery Community Centres
Recovery Community Centres (RCC) are a unique model of community-based recovery support that has spread from coast to coast across the United States. RCCs are typically run by a paid director however; they are essentially peer-led centers that serve as local resources of community-based recovery support. Services may include: a variety of mutual aid meetings (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery); telephone support; peer recovery coaching; social gatherings and recreational opportunities; life skills development workshops and navigation of local recovery resources as well as social services, education and skills training, and employment and volunteer opportunities. The supportive relationships developed among individuals in recovery along with a personalized toolkit of resources help individuals initiate and sustain recovery over time.
The Recovery Café
The Recovery Café model is really an entry level RCC for those who have lived experience of homelessness or continue to be at risk of homelessness. The model will fill a void in the recovery services and support continuum. The seven RCC-like sites are a big step for many and the up to two-year support program available at a Recovery Café can contribute to an improved transition to RCC-like sites. The Recovery Café is a supportive community for individuals in recovery from homelessness, poverty, isolation, addictions, and/or other mental health challenges. It delivers a community of belonging for its members through a set of core interventions:
- Recovery circles – small groups of peers that share individual goal setting, progress reporting and support along the way,
- School of Recovery – Life skill development activities and classes,
- Nutritious lunch and dinner services five days a week, and
- Navigation to needed community services and resources.
Streetohome identified seven RCC-like sites currently operating in the Greater Vancouver Area. After researching the RCC model (i.e., conducting a current state analysis of each Vancouver-area site; searching published academic literature for an evidence base underlying the model, and participating in a study tour of two successful models on the U.S. West Coast), a business case was developed. Two new directions for Streetohome were derived from the business case:
- Exploring opportunities to work with the seven existing RCC-like sites to enhance individual site operations and connections with the addiction recovery service system in the Greater Vancouver Area (i.e., Homelessness Prevention), and
- Exploring opportunities to broker and leverage the spread of a Recovery Café model in the Greater Vancouver Area (i.e., homelessness services system enhancement that provides additional pathways out of homelessness in Vancouver).