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Why Karen Volunteers

STH-Webmaster   |   October 22, 2021

When Streetohome needed expert help in IT and web design in 2017, Karen Ott, who was working as the Senior Business Analyst and Operations Lead at Colliers International at the time, stepped up and took the lead on the redesign of our website.

“It feels good to be able to use the skills you’ve learned for a good cause. I was overjoyed when John McLernon, Streetohome Board Chair and Collier’s Co-Founder, asked me to volunteer and help. It was a cause I could relate to, and I was proud that my company was supporting something that meant a lot to me,” says Karen.

Karen continues to volunteer with Streetohome and is now helping our efforts in digitizing the Life Intentions Action Planner (LIAP) – a tool that empowers vulnerable individuals to move along their preferred life path. The LIAP helps individuals decide what’s important to them in six domains (housing; employment & volunteering; education, skills & training; health & wellness; legal & advocacy; and community & belonging), connects them with free supports in Vancouver that fit their unique needs and preferences, and shows them how to create a step-by-step action plan to succeed at their goals and start creating the life they want for themselves.

“I want everyone to be safe and happy, and to be able to live life to the fullest. We say that individuals have lived experience of homelessness,  but they’re more than that – they’re beautiful human beings that just need a helping hand.”

The Life Intentions Action Planner allows you to take the time to stop and think, figure out what it is that you’re looking for, identify your needs and personal strengths, and decide how you want to make your own path in life, Karen explains.

“Everyone should be able to experience life in the way they want, and this tool really gives our city’s most vulnerable individuals an opportunity to help themselves by seeking out the supports they would like to use and creating an action plan and building the skills they need to achieve their personal goals.”

The original paper version and initial digital mock-ups of the Life Intentions Action Planner have been focus tested with a variety of people, including youth, adult, parent, senior, Indigenous, and LGBTQ2S+ individuals living in shelters, supportive housing and treatment programs to ensure appropriate language and ease of use.

“Working on this initiative really encouraged me to think about the experience we wanted to create for our app users and how important language was, especially for those who are Indigenous. It’s given me an increased awareness that just because we may all speak English, doesn’t mean that we’re actually interpreting it the same as everyone else – the language we need to use can change so much based on someone’s life experiences.”

Streetohome’s team, volunteers and focus group participants have worked hard to ensure that the LIAP does not stigmatize users while assisting with the navigation of a complicated and overwhelming system of supports.

“My one wish is that the people who truly need this – that we’re able to reach them and to help them make a difference in their lives.”