Services Spotlight

Supportive Housing with Kimmy Reedy

Don't forget to join us on September 8th in our Staff Connections Meeting (found in your Gmail calendar)

where we will talk all about our supportive housing service!

In your words, what is the supportive housing service?

I see it as a bridge for people who didn't usually have support getting housing. Whether they are experiencing homelessness, have just left treatment facilities, etc. It fills that gap that many other organizations simply don't offer. Successful recovery needs all of this to work.

What form does that take?

Usually, it is in the form of a one-on-one meeting in person or by phone. Sometimes we will visit shelters with our members as well.

How did you become a provider of this service?

When I went to treatment, this was the piece that was missing for me. When I got asked to come back as a peer counselor, I only wanted to do it to provide this piece for others. I returned to be the person I needed and didn't have at the time.

When we don't have this service for people coming from the streets or prison, we kind of set them up to fail.

What is a common misconception people have about supported housing?

They think we are KCHA or Seattle Housing; we don't just put people in houses. We empower people to empower themselves and walk beside them on their journey.

Do you have a success story you could share?

Richie Sanchez, a long-time member and drag queen, was on the streets. They came in the same clothes they were sleeping in with bags full of everything they had. I got them into a shelter, then into apartments with shared bathrooms, and now in a regular apartment.

Oscar came from gang life and got shot in the face. I got him into an oxford house, and we are now working on getting him into his own apartment.

Terry lived under the bridge for six years. We worked with him into detox and then treatment. Today he has his own apartment and is practicing harm reduction very well.

Nicole from Spokane was on fentanyl pills, we got her into detox, and now she manages a local business.

I could sit here all day and talk about success stories.

A failure?

That's a lot harder to say. I don't really see failures but lessons. They are walking their path, and stumbling on that path is just a part of walking it.

We had a young man who lost his life after reaching out for some of our services. I still haven't put his file away.

Is there anything more you wish you could do?

I would love to have it not be based around Medicaid; that creates a barrier. We serve everyone and can't let something like that get in the way. Personally, I never say no. I have a passion for people, and we will find out how to help one way or another. 

Supported Employment with Jessica Alalawi

Don't forget to join us on August 11th in our Staff Connections Meeting (found in your Gmail calendar)

where we will talk all about our supported employment service!

In your words, what is the supported employment service?

Well, I think it fits incredibly well into the peer model. At Peer, we walk by someone and support them in reaching their goals, which is precisely what supported employment is. We support them in their employment and education goals. 

What form does that take?

Usually, this involves a 1:1 meeting with members seeking service. As usual, we do our best to meet them where they are at. It takes getting to know them, who they are, their skills, and getting an idea of their past and where they want their future to go. We also assess their needs for immediate employment while still strategizing an action plan or goals to get people to where they end up wanting in a realistic manner. 

We also have an employment support group called Job Club. Communal help is another choice people can make besides the 1:1 option. 

How did you become a provider of this service?

I just really wanted to work at Peer Seattle, and this was the position that was open when I was looking. I know I wanted to do 1:1 peer work. First and foremost, I wanted to be a peer counselor, which is certainly a part of these services. 

Having been here for a year and a half, I appreciate employment's role in someone's recovery. It is integral, and being able to help someone with something so necessary is amazing to me!

What could someone expect from a 1:1 meeting with you?

On our first meeting, we start by simply trying to get to know each other. We build connection and trust. Where necessary, I share where my journey has lined up with theirs and make common ground. From there, I get into more of the details I've mentioned earlier. 

What is a common misconception people have about supported employment?

People thinking that we are a temp agency. Granted, part of my job is reaching out to employers and finding job opportunities for our members, but many people come in and expect, "OK, this is the field I want, where can I start tomorrow!" ...and it isn't always like that. Sometimes it happens, but often not in the field they want and with more hard labor or warehouse work. 

Also, as with many services in the peer model, members won't succeed if they aren't putting their own weight in. 

 

Do you have a success story you could share?

Absolutely. Rose came to Peer Seattle after a mental health breakdown. Having experienced a lifetime of abuse, she was finally able to escape a domestic violence situation by admitting herself into a mental health hospital. After getting out of the hospital, she connected with Peer Seattle. When she first arrived, Rose struggled with establishing goals, finding her direction, and re-building her self-confidence. However, she kept engaging with services, and over the past year, we have seen her blossom into a different person. She began volunteering at our front desk and supporting our tabling events. She started seeing a Peer Coach who helped her identify goals and discover her passion for using her own story to help others. She completed the facilitator training and helped develop a Domestic Violence Support group. Feeling empowered, this spring she went through the CCAR training and became a Peer Coach herself, being matched with recoverees whom she is now helping to navigate their recovery journey. Just last month, Rose passed her CPC class. She failed her first attempt, but with help studying from the Employment Specialist, she got there. Rose is now in the interview process to become a Peer Counselor at multiple organizations, including Crisis Connections and DESC. Through the help of Peer Seattle, she has found a new path in her life, one filled with self-fulfillment and independence. 

 Is there anything more you wish you could do?

This is part of the reason why I'm excited to pass on the torch to Ruth. I think she will bring this service to the next level. She has a passion for goal setting, which is VERY helpful in this service. She is also very good at networking, which I've always wanted to improve myself. So the future looks brighter. 

Support Groups with Marsha Valenzuela

In your words, what is a support group?

Somewhere you can go, a safe space where you can talk, express yourself, get feedback, and sometimes simply be heard. 

How do you build those foundations for a support group?

We make a safe container. Right at the beginning, we do group agreements. That's when I already start to see peoples' shoulders drop and gain more comfort. We want people to put their shields down, and I make it clear that things said here stay here. Keeping any phone calls or similar distractions outside of the room also helps.

 

How do you become a group facilitator?

After training, you find your courage. When I first started, I wasn't used to taking the lead. You learn to invite people to join you and become passionate about taking this journey with the group. 

How did facilitator training help you?

It helps in many ways and gives you tools to deal with any problems that may prop up in the group. For example, sometimes we have one person that may steal the show, a check-in that lasts too long. Being able to break in and share with others is important. So, sometimes you need to interrupt in a kind manner. "Thank you for sharing; we are going to keep going." We can go off-topic, but it's not what everyone is there for; we are there for support. This is another helpful tool that takes a bit of bravery to execute; finding that courage is essential!

And then there are the quiet ones. They often have a lot to say. If I see it, I will say, "Hi, (their name), what do you think about this?" Usually, they like to be asked and pulled into the conversation, which gives them an excuse to talk, open up, and gain more comfort. 

Do you have a go-to icebreaker?

Sometimes I'll ask the group what they do to celebrate accomplishments, even small ones. Everyone is different. For me, I take my shoes off, put my feet on the grass, and feel my surroundings; it makes me feel alive and connected. Often, I'll pair that with yoga. 

How do you measure success in a support group?

Well, you don't do it with total group attendance (a bigger group isn't necessarily better than a smaller group). A small group can bond very quickly, which is incredibly powerful. If it works for that small group of people, it is a success. 

I have a group where 80% of the attendees are homeless, and this brings them tons of community support. It encourages helping each other even out in the real world. That sense of community doesn't need to end with the support group. Building community is not easy and can be a massive success in our support groups. 

Do you have a success story involving support groups?

While being a coach at peer Spokane, I want to say half of our recoveries become coaches themselves. We are showing people they have so many great qualities and gifts to share, and they truly do! We are not our past; we are who we are today and have a lot to give to our community. 

Another angle I use is I ask what they were good at before the drugs. It is important to remember to play. We have to laugh. Life isn't always serious, and support groups don't have to be all the time too. 

What about a failure?

Well, there is a bias that I have to remember. Say we just met; you are sharing what's happening, but I only hear your side. It can be easy to believe people too much, which gives you a warped perception of the reality they are facing. 

Anytime I do something wrong, I make amends immediately.

Do you have any support group niches that need to be filled?

Here they are demanding a men's group, so that's coming. LGBTQ+ groups are currently doing very well. I do wish we could reach the youth more as we don't normally work with folks under 18. 

Many parents may need a CPS-involved group. I have lived experience with that myself with my amazing family, and we were able to work through it. I want to create a space to learn from that, finding that safety plan to allow your kids to return home. My boys mean the world to me; you may lose your way, but it is about figuring that out and getting back on track. 

Do support groups do something our other services can't?

Most importantly, you are creating a community that walks out the door that continues existing. Also, the importance of knowing you aren't alone and are heard by multiple people.

After becoming more involved in groups and my community, I recognize people out in public all the time now. While out with my granddaughter, she asked, "do you know everybody?" after seeing several people on our shopping/grocery trip. I replied, "no, but I acknowledge people." Just that little gesture can be all it takes to keep your community feeling strong. 
 

Peer Coaching with Julie Hinkemeyer

What is peer coaching in your words?

 

A peer coach is someone with shared lived experience, whether that involves mental health, substance abuse, chronic illness, etc. Someone that can be there for you as a sounding board. They can listen and give you advice "only if you ask". Being a coach is about empowering them to do the work and explore there version of recvery.

 

A peer coach is someone who can walk alongside you on your recovery journey. Every person has different needs and a different path; it's all about meeting that person where they are at. 

 

Sometimes what happens in a coach/recoveree relationship is they end up growing together and learning from one other due to them both being peers.

Can you share a success story?

 

I had a peer; she has three kids and had been in a sober living house for six months using abstinat based treatment. We started talking, and she opened up to me that she was taking pain pills again. She really wanted to get back on medically assisted treatment, but the house she was in did not allow that. She then advocated for herself to get on this treatment program again and got the doctor to talk to her house manger. She ended up flourishing. She even became a peer coach here, passing help onto others in our community.  

She was heading down the path to relapsing, and I was the only person she could really trust with that info. I use medically assisted treatment myself. She was worried about the shame from others because she had been abstant based for 6 months already, but if she had kept silent, she probably would've fully relapsed. She had ups and downs, and was nearly kicked out of the place, but I walked alongside her and helped her find new stability. 

 

A failure you've learned from?

 

I had a couple who were both enrolled in our SOR program, also I had only been working for the conapny for a few months. The guy had his own coach, and the girl had me. Unfortunately, the guy's coach ended up quitting. They were both in need and both agreed to simply having me as both their coaches, so I started meeting with both of them together and separately. That backfired. The guy would say I said things (which I didn't) to take jabs at her and vise versa. So I learned never to coach two people in the same household. I wouldn't have done that usually, but it fell on my lap due to having a coach shortage and them both urging me.

 

Trust ended up failing, and both of them ended up leaving. Even though they both wanted this, this decision was wrong. Nowadays, they are back and in attendance again, so we still have a happy ending!

 

A common misconception?

 

People usually think peer coaches are like a counselor or case manger. They expect advice/counseling, but that's not what we do. Peer coaches can't do EVERYTHING (housing, employment, etc); we can help, but we don't do those things for our peers as their peer coach. We moreso empower them to do it for themselves. If we do it for them, how do they grow and become sustainable in their recovery? 

What is something you've learned from being a peer coach?

 

To be thankful for where I come from and the life I lived. It makes you more humble, and it teaches patience and how to be a better listener. Often, our peers simply need someone to listen to for once in their life. Even if what they say is off the wall absurd, it's important to hear people's stories, and no story is ever the same.

 

Is there a coaching style you think you utilize?

 

This may be cliche, but I use motivational interviewing (MI) skills like no other. When I first started at Peer, MI training took place that same week. It involves a lot of active listening and open-ended questions. It barely feels like I'm coaching when I coach because I let them lead the conversations. Just asking the simple question, "well, what would you do?" can go a long way. 

 

New folks also see a power differential, but I try to get rid of that right at the beginning. THEY are the ones that run their recovery. I can tell them XYZ, but that may not work for them, everyone's recovery is different.

 

Is there anything else you've learned that you'd like to share with other Peer Coaches?

 

Setting boundaries is essential for me, for my own sanity. I have specific hours they can call. It is hard to set up those boundaries since you feel this need to be a rockstar available at all times for your peer, but it's proven invaluable to me. All of my recoverees still end up being my friend in some form or another. 

 

I believe peer coaching needs to be the heart of what we do at our sites. When Peer Spokane started, we had no support groups, the only service we could offer at the time was one-on-one peer coaching. Peer coaching was SO valuable (especially during the pandemic). Not to mention that many people we coach end up being coaches themselves. We currently don't have enough peer coaches, but it is great to see this service consistently growing. It should be offered at so many more places for so many more communities. 

 

Special thanks to my first peer coach, Kimmy Reedy. We are still best friends, and I love that I get to continue to pass the peer-coaching torch down to other future coaches. 

Peers in the Library with Therese Paxton

What service do you help provide?

Peer support within a library setting.

 

How do people in need of service benefit from this?

 

It's all about getting basic needs met. Having someone to walk through their goals with them, resource referral, shared experience, and simply having someone to relate to and talk to. Giving that emotional support is essential, showing people that may feel invisible that you see them.

 

What does an average day at the library look like for you?

I spend part of my day at my resource table and part working with patrons. I've gotten a good handful of regulars that I enjoy checking up on. Often I'll walk around and find people to talk to. Otherwise, some admin work and planning for programming, and emails. I'll also give out supplies to people that communicate that they are in need.

 

What kind of program development have you been working on?

The Resource Fair, for one. The meditative minds group, it has been going well and I've gotten a consistent group of people attending. I just became a board member of Essentials First. I'm also expanding direct service items (tents, chargers, sleeping bags, hand warmers, gloves, hats, basic needs). 

Can you describe a failure you've learned from while on the job?

There was someone sleeping outside, I went up to invite them in when we open and let them know that i'll be inside if they need anything. They woke up very angry, started cussing me out, and getting aggressive. So, I went inside and let my supervisor know (as letting them know is part of my responsibilities) and they had to ask the person to leave. I left my card in case she changed her mind. I was pissed, but I was able to not lash out, go inside, and wrap it up professionally. 

How about any success stories?

I can share a few:

1) There was a couple camped by the library parking garage in a tent. I went to their tent with Anne and let them know that the library would be open soon and that we would love them to come in and utilize the library. I gave them my card and told them a bit about my role and services offered. They were meeting with their daughter so I provided them with some information for resources for families and children. I asked them if they wanted to come in and talk further and they decided to come back later. Later that day, they came in and I had the opportunity to provide them with some basic resources such as a blanket, food, hygiene packs, and bus tickets to make it to their appointments they had coming up. I referred them to our Housing Navigator at Peer Kent to explore further housing options.

2) I have been working with this patron since January. Originally they were in a shelter that they were very unhappy with. We made phone calls and got them into another one. They experienced issues here too so they got into a tiny home village. When they moved in they only had a bed and all their belongings were on the floor. I assisted in finding a bedside table donation for their tiny home. This patron often came in to vent to me about challenges they were facing, sometimes for a couple hours. I provided them with food on multiple occasions while they were utilizing the library computer to work on personal projects. I assisted with print jobs a couple times. I also provided them with a blanket and some Walmart gift cards to get some basics for their tiny home. After some time in the tiny home village, they decided they wanted to move back to Texas and reside in a shelter there. We did research together and made phone calls to different places in Texas. They had luck finding one, but needed a mental health evaluation to qualify to move in. I helped them find a few different places they could get an evaluation for free. This didn’t end up working out, but one of the other shelter locations we had called ended up working out. The patron asked me to write a letter of services for them to give to the shelter, so I wrote the letter and now they are moving to Texas today. This has been very exciting to be a part of someone seeking out what they really want.

3) Another patron I was introduced to by KCLS staff in the beginning of November was someone I had an immediate connection with. The first time we met he told me he mostly just wanted a relatable person to talk to so we rented out a study room and just talked about our life experiences. We spoke about philosophical things, Alcoholics Anonymous, spiritual aspects and his current situation. He was very clear on what his next step was. He told me he wanted to go into drug treatment, but had court dates he needed to attend to. I assisted him with a phone to call his lawyer and multiple detox centers. He settled on one in Enumclaw. I printed him out bus directions and provided him with bus tickets to make the commute. He came back toward the end of November and asked the front desk staff for me. He told me that he did not like the treatment center in Enumclaw and had left. His lawyer provided hi with a cellphone, so I saved his contact information to stay in touch. He told me all about his adventures since we had last met. He communicated that he was in need of an I.D. I contacted Bertram to inquire about the 20$ voucher he has access to and the patron told me he needed to get his documents in line. I provided him with bus tickets to arrange his affairs. About two weeks later, I ran into him at the library while doing a walk. We sat down and talked about his whereabouts for the last couple of weeks and his living conditions. He has since had new financial progression and is seeking to get his basic needs in line. This includes seeking a more permanent housing situation, possibly an apartment of his own. His first step would be to get his I.D. I contacted Bertram and scheduled an appointment for the patron to go meet him to receive the 20$ I.D. voucher in Kent. I scanned and emailed Bertram the documents the patron had in order to get identification. I provided him with bus tickets to make the appointment. A couple of days later I saw him at the library again. He spoke to me about his disdain for shelters. I gave him information about Congregations For The Homeless and he told me he might give it a try. Two days later, I ran into him at the library again and he told me he had successfully gotten his I.D. and was very excited about this new progress. He continues to want an apartment but does not desire assistance with the process of it. I asked him if he currently received government assistance for food benefits and he told me he did not, but would like to apply. I sat down with him and walked him through the application process. This application was successful. I gave him information about severe weather shelters in the area. I told him about the possibility of getting an Emergency Housing Voucher if he receives services from Congregations For The Homeless. I told him I would look into it further. Later that day, I met with him again and informed him that I had spoken with the program manager of Congregations For The Homeless and unfortunately they no longer have any Emergency Housing Vouchers available. We discussed BFET programs and I asked him if he was interested and he was not. A few days later he reached out to me via phone and told me how much he appreciates everything I have been doing to help. We spoke further about other emergency weather shelters. I told him I had a lead on a motel voucher and would look into it. I encouraged him to contact her as well to engage in self-advocacy. He was unsuccessful at getting his needs met. I contacted the person in charge of the vouchers but she regretfully informed me that she was unable to provide services to him because of his past history with a local shelter. Hopefully, I can help make something positive happen for his housing situation soon, but all in all, there have been successes with this patron and both of us are happy about that.