The Need: Describe the need for your solution and the size and characteristics of the community(ies) your solution is engaging
We know a man who was homeless, can be violent, has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and has been in prison. Would you rather this person was living in a homeless shelter in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, or back in prison? Either he is prone to a criminal lifestyle or is costing more around $100,000 a year in a correctional institution. Clearly, these are no options.
Individuals with multiple issues need agencies that can focus on more than one issue at a time, with wide training and experience. Someone who may have a criminal background can scare off health professionals, and people familiar with the criminal justice system do not always have sufficient training or experience in developmental disabilities or mental health concerns.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
A low barrier drop-in centre building positive relationships to produce change is what we’ve seen work: skill development, education, recreation and commitment without judgment through projects, programs, workshops, outings and one-on-one time with well-trained staff in a safe, accessible space.
Our attitude as service providers is everything. Commitment to people is what elicits change. Not reacting to the disability, mental health concern or other issues, means treating the person as a person, not a malady. It means not addressing one part of their life, but all aspects, and how those parts interact. It means firm boundaries and no judgment. It means there is no specific program of how to interact with people dealing with concurrent disorders since every single person is different and unique—programming could be anything from a group outing to the zoo, to a workshop on creating a resumé or a lesson on oral hygiene. It must meet the needs of the individuals who walk in the door.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include the primary activities involved in your solution.
Our understanding of the many barriers and challenges—and their combination—faced by marginalized individuals with a developmental disability means that we know how to provide effective “wrap around” support.
One of our staff went to a housing facility to meet someone who had been referred to our organization. When she got there, a ruckus was being made by a very loud and verbally aggressive man, who turned out to be the person she was there to meet. He turned around and said “hi” and she smiled and said: “I’m very pleased to meet you.” She did not respond to, or acknowledge, his behaviour. He, in turn, since that day, treated her with respect. This foundation has enabled him to succeed in maintaining more permanent housing with us after living in the streets of the Downtown Eastside.
The primary activities involved in our project start with individual support plans (what assistance will be most effective?) and include career planning (using specialized training), employment preparation workshops (resumés, interviewing), life skills workshops (budgeting, hygiene), discussion groups, outings, art therapy, cooking classes, yoga and fitness, games, and music.
Inclusion, inclusion, inclusion; providing new opportunities, experiences, and choice to people who have gone without, finding something they’re interested in, is what weaves them into the neighbourhood and community fabric.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others working to address the same needs as you and indicate what sets you apart from them.
While many organizations work with marginalized individuals, we are unique. We cross diagnostic boundaries. Too many organizations and government agencies police those boundaries (“This is what we can’t do...”). No matter what is going on in a person’s life, they still have positive changes they can make. Our large training budget covers training requests from staff to cover the things they think they need, which means that as an organization, we have experience in everything from Non Violent Crisis Intervention and how to work with sexual offenders and the impacts of aging on someone with Down syndrome.
We believe in pulling people from the Downtown Eastside to get their life on a better track.
The Elizabeth Fry Society of does similar work to JHSLM, but focus on women.