Igniting Her Passion: Laurie-National Housing Day
November 22, 2020 is National Housing Day, where we acknowledge the work done by organizations and people all across Canada to ensure that everyone has the dignity of a place to call home.
Here at CMHA York Region and South Simcoe (CMHA YRSS), we are extremely grateful for our amazing Home First Community Support Team, who not only help our clients secure and maintain housing, but also support them every step of the way along their journey. We caught up with Laurie, a Clinical Lead for our Home First Community Support Team, to learn more about the work of herself and colleagues.
Pursuing Her Passion
Laurie hasn’t always had a career in the housing field, in fact she didn’t even know that CMHA existed, until her son ended up needing support for psychosis. This coupled with her own lived experience, pushed her to not only begin volunteering at CMHA YRSS, but also go back to school to learn more about mental health and pursue a completely different career path.
Although she has held multiple roles in the organization to date, Laurie started off as a member of the Community Transitions Team. When an opportunity became available for her to join the then new Housing First Team, she jumped at the chance, igniting her passion for the Housing First Principles we hold true here at CMHA YRSS.
A Day on the Job
Laurie’s every day is extremely multifaceted. As the Clinical Lead, she plays a major role in supporting and coaching colleagues on the team, helping them to see things from a client’s perspective and maintain a close working relationship with our community partners and shelters.
Another big part of her role is managing client flow by assigning clients to Case Managers and Housing Specialists, getting referrals from Streamlined Access and York Region, as well as tracking data.
Laurie also often provides ‘on the fly’ information for coworkers in other parts of the organization, who may have a client they’re working with that is at risk of losing their housing.
What drives Laurie every day, along with many of us here at CMHA YRSS, is her belief that housing is a basic human right and a key aspect in maintaining a person’s dignity and respect. She remarked that the people who she works with, both clients and colleagues, are one of her favourite parts of the job.
Laurie explained that when you’re on the Home First Community Support Team, you often get exposed to the harsh realities of many. However, she is always amazed by their resilience. She remarked that in some instances, clients, who have been cast off by others as too difficult to place, manage to break through barriers never thought possible, in order to not only successfully obtain housing, but also to maintain it for many years to come, while building and connecting to a community of their own.
One thing about her job, that she said many wouldn’t expect, is how tight-knit the community is amongst people that are experiencing homelessness. They look out for each other and it’s wonderful to be a part of that. She is grateful for all that she has learned from the clients she has worked with over the years.
Changes with COVID
How we deliver our housing programs here at CMHA YRSS has changed dramatically with COVID. Some of the barriers that the team has had to overcome include trying to remain connected with clients who don’t have easy access to technology, viewing photographs of potential apartments instead of visiting them in person and working virtually with landlords. Despite these barriers, Laurie is proud of the team and how they have stepped up. In fact, only two weeks into the pandemic, the team was able to secure daily emergency food access for people in need. This is a service that is still continuing to date thanks to the work of the Home First Community Support Team.
As outlined in the Housing First Principles mentioned above, Laurie believes that a systemic issue in housing as a whole is that many people do not have a lot of choices about where they live. Even though the team may be able to secure housing for someone, it doesn’t mean that it’s the highest quality or that it fits their needs. Housing is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution and those who work in housing support, both in our organization and across Canada, continue to advocate for their client’s ability to choose.
When talking to Laurie it is extremely clear, that when it comes to her career she wouldn’t have it any other way. Here at CMHA YRSS, we are extremely grateful for people like Laurie, who not only continue to pursue our mission, but share their passion wherever they go.