In almost 20 years at WJS Canada, I have worn a few different hats. Group home, adult day program, seniors program, trauma peer support counsellor. Currently I work in Tenant Support, where I have been for the last 16 years. I think I have found my niche.
Tenant Support is one of those programs that is much needed but often forgotten about. There is such a wide variety of individuals we support, it’s difficult to describe exactly what we do on a typical day.
Under the big umbrella, it’s life skills training for individuals who live independently, assisting with anything to improve or maintain their quality of life. But there’s so much more to it than just that.
Anything that is considered a life skill we cover: banking, budgeting, cooking, cleaning, medical appointments, looking for housing, paying bills etc. I tell the people I serve: “I won’t do it for you, but I’ll do it with you so that one day you can do it on your own.” Life skills also include safety, sexuality, and fostering healthy relationships and sometimes that’s where life gets tricky.
For a lot of my guys I am their friend, their family, and the person they tell all their stories to. I am the person they call when things are good and the person they call when things are bad. I have been so lucky to work with some amazing and strong individuals.
I get to help them make some major choices about the paths their life will take and support them in their journey. I have worked with a woman who found the strength to leave an abusive relationship and go into hiding and a transition home for a few months until she got on her feet.
I have had more than one participant lose their children to the custody of the ministry and work from supervised hour-long visits to unsupervised full weekend visits. I have also assisted a mother to keep her children.
I have got to share in the joy as one of my participants bought his own apartment and be successful living on his own after moving out.
I have shared in the sorrow as family members have passed away. I have helped a homeless participant find a home, and lose (a few) homes, go through rehab successfully and unsuccessfully, and finally choose to go off and try life on his own.
I have helped someone get their driver’s license, another study for school and graduate from college. I get to be the person that gives the helping hand along the way.
It’s not all roses and sunshine, it’s also not all doom and gloom. There is a lot of joy, sorrow, and frustrations in this job day to day, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have met amazing, strong, and courageous people and have gotten to be part of their day to day successes.
At the end of each day they have taught me more about life, struggle, acceptance and unconditional love than I think I would ever learn in any other job.