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Services Spotlight

Peers in the library with Tony Campbell

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

where we will talk all about peers in the libraries. 

What is the purpose of the King County Library System?

To bring the peer experience to more people in the community. There are a lot of needs at these public places, especially ones located near transit hubs. I try to act as their guide of sorts. 

What does a typical day look like?

That's what's great; you never know! Sometimes people will set up appointments but won't always be there. I am here daily, which lets people know I'll be there for them. Sometimes it is just sitting and being visible. Other times I'm helping with a whole slew of resources, including getting phones, bus tickets/other transport, food, clothing, shoes, shelter, hygiene packs, navigating them to a shower, etc. I help a lot of folks in the unhoused community get their basic needs met. 

Just yesterday, I worked with someone with limited mobility. Seclia had worked with him prior in Federal Way and let him know about me too. I helped him navigate the computer, so sometimes I'm even doing basic IT work. It's all about hooking them up with any resources I have access to. 

What differs you from a typical PSS at Peer Kent? 

At Kent, everyone has their niche: housing, the family navigator, coaching, etc. Being here, I sometimes have to navigate all of that and know where to send people for what. Like if someone has a need for shelter that night, it may not be fulfilled right away at Peer Kent, but knowing where to send them for their direct needs to be fulfilled right away is valuable. 

Anything more you wish you could do?

I wish there was more funding for things, of all sorts. Recently I've been getting prepaid cards at a nearby laundromat and putting them in little baggies with directions to get there. Having more things like that readily available for people in need would be priceless. 

Tony shares some of his personal stories from working in this service:


Ed The Vet

I have worked with Ed, a veteran, at the library for the past nine months. When I first met him, he caught my attention with a golf club he used as a cane and a backpack full of golf balls. I love golf too, and that's how we connected. I found out that Ed had been homeless for the last five years and had been living in a tent down by the river. He also shared that he had stage 4 lung cancer but had been refusing treatment.

As I got to know Ed better, I learned that he had lost touch with the VA and had not been receiving the benefits he deserved as a veteran. So, I helped him get in touch with the VA and assisted him in getting his SSI money. With support and guidance, Ed was able to get into his own apartment, and he finally started receiving treatment for his cancer. I never thought he would agree to it, but he did, and it was a huge win for him.

The other day, Ed came into the library, and we were talking about how far he had come. He started to cry and expressed that he was struggling with his mortality, feeling like he had not done enough with his life. I shared with him that I believed he had done more than most people could, especially considering his circumstances. Ed started to express his gratitude for the love and support he had received and did not know how to repay me. I told him that I had not done anything extraordinary for him, but rather just walked with him and helped him get the benefits he deserved as a veteran. I could see that my words helped to ease his burden.

Working with Ed has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am humbled and honored to have played a small part in his journey. His resilience and determination have taught me valuable lessons about the human spirit and the power of connection. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to work with him and for the lessons he taught me.

Patty and the Housing Voucher

Patty's journey from being chronically homeless in the Renton area for the last 6+ years has been a long and challenging one. As someone who has been working with Patty for the last year, I have been able to witness firsthand the progress she has gone through. One of the significant turning points in Patty's life came when she told you that she had an emergency housing voucher from King County that was about to expire. This voucher would pay for her rent, move-in costs, and all the fees that come with moving into a place. This news was particularly intriguing to me because it presented a rare opportunity for Patty to get off the streets and into a safe and stable living situation.


However, as I soon discovered, finding a suitable place for Patty to live was not going to be easy. Most apartments require tenants to make at least three times the rent, which Patty could not do as she had zero income at the time. It was then that I connected Patty to a housing specialist at Peer Kent, who was able to help her find a place to live and ensure that she was treated fairly throughout the process.

Through the support and guidance of the housing specialist, Patty was finally able to move into her own apartment with her cat, who serves as her service animal. This was a significant milestone for Patty, as it marked the end of her long struggle with chronic homelessness and the beginning of a new chapter in her life.

As I continue to work with Patty, I have noticed a significant change in her demeanor. Gone is the sad, wet woman that I first met, replaced by someone who is now thriving in her own space. I am so happy to see that Patty has been able to turn her life around, and she continues to this day, to come into the library to work with me. Her journey is a reminder that with the right support and resources, even the most challenging situations can be overcome when we work as a team.

Mac is Back

Meeting Mack in the library turned out to be a significant moment for his recovery. He came in looking for a bus ticket back to Louisiana and an ID, but as we talked in the car on the way to get his ID, he opened up about his struggles with substance use and expressed a desire to go to treatment.

I shared some of my experiences and struggles, which allowed Mack to feel comfortable and open up to me and share his own story. It was clear that he recognized the need for treatment and was willing to take the steps necessary to overcome his addiction. We drove to Peer Kent, where I introduced him to Tianna, the family navigator and detox specialist. Thanks to her expertise and guidance, Mack was able to secure a three-month treatment program at ABHS in Chehalis and a spot in transitional housing when he completes treatment.

I was able to see Mack come out full of life, and happiness is what makes my job worth it. The gratitude he expressed and the knowledge that I helped play a part in helping him turn his life around. That is an incredibly rewarding feeling. Moments like this remind us of the importance of supporting those in need and working together to create positive change in our communities.

Bob's Voucher Program with Aary Gariss

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

where we will talk all about Bob's Voucher Program and how you could potentially utilize this at your site. 

Uncle Bob's voucher program allows us to offer free tickets to various artistic events (concerts, plays, shows, etc). We do this by networking and gathering these tickets for our members to take advantage of.


Uncle Bob was very prominent in the queer recovery community. He started the program because he had many connections to art which made getting free tickets to our members relatively easy.


When Dan mentioned starting this program back up to me, I jumped right on it. The way art connects us to our community and lowering barriers to art is a concept very close to my heart. We show our members that they CAN go to a beautiful symphony and don't have to spend all this money or dress up, etc. The work members are doing here is so difficult and they deserve to be given the opportunity to enjoy themselves. 

Peer Workforce Development Training Courses with Prima Perez and Jenna Cook

Don't forget to join us on April 13th in our Staff Connections Meeting (found in your Gmail calendar)

where we will talk all about the Peer Workforce Development's pieces of training.

In your words, what is Peer Workforce Development's training courses?


We are a training hub, for all sorts of things, in all communities. Currently, we work with people in law enforcement, people involved in the justice system, rural communities, tribes, mental health facilities, etc. We are providing education to communities who typically don't get access to this and presenting it in a manner tailored to these communities. 


Even in the timeline of a few months, the manifestation of these has been impressive. We continue to grow and are hoping to get into juvenile systems soon. 


What is a common misconception people have about Peer WD classes?


Many simply don't understand what we do in the first place; they may have never heard of peer services before. Luckily, that's our job to fix. We typically run classes on WRAP, Certified Peer  Counseling, Bridge, 8 Dimensions of Wellness, Mental Health First Aid, recovery coach and more. 


We also consult with other agencies interested in becoming peer or recovery communities. 


What makes this service unique? 


Tailoring our training to the communities we are serving. We use their language to help teach and experience to support individual learning and reach a greater audience. Typically, that isn't a step taken by similar agencies. 


Not to mention our whole peer community that works for us. We are diverse, and we have culture, traditions, wisdoms, etc to pull from. We are always talking about self-care with each other. As peers, we come with lived experience. Someone with a degree from college can step foot in a jail but may have never been there before on the other side; we try to bring people in with that experience. 


We try to give more than just a class; we bring a community. 


What is new coming soon?


We do have a new training, "help for helpers." That will look a bit different and is all about employed peer workers helping each other, and self-care. 


Jenna: I'm looking forward to more with Western State Hospital. We may have a CPC class for patients there who are returning to the community. That's actually where I first found any sort of hope when I was there. 


Prima: I'd like having more pieces of training around people who have disabilities (mental and physical). We don't touch much on physical disability or folks with a service animal. 


What about what happens after the class?


After people become trained, they have questions, but where can they ask them if the class is over? So, we are putting together a statewide network including forums, detailed calendars, and Zoom groups/meetings. We want a place for people to ask and answer questions from other peers. That's part of why "help for helpers" is needed too. 


Is there anything more you wish you could do?


Jenna: There is so much work to do, and we are so small. We contract with people right now, but it would be great to have more staff here to say yes to more projects. 


Prima: There are 29 affiliated tribes in Washington, I want to continue breaking barriers between the tribal councils/elders to allow us to bring what we have to offer. As someone who is indigenous, having peer support is unheard of. 


We would also love a peer BBQ party, just saying!

RNP with Dan Harmon

Don't forget to join us on March 9th in our Staff Connections Meeting (found in your Gmail calendar)

where we will talk all about the Recovery Navigator Program!

In your words, what is the Recovery Navigator Program?

RNP is a program for folks who intersect with the law. It could be from simple drug possession, unmet behavioral health challenges, etc. We allow folks to opt into recovery services instead of going to jail, and we will enable them to seek services they may not usually know about.

The cool thing is when we get a call from the police for an individual they are requesting we work with; we try to get there within 30 - 45 minutes with our fleet of cars. We go out and talk and let them know their options. This is always their choice if they want to work with us. They don't have to opt in and have multiple chances to participate later (three total chances).

We give it a peer spin too. RNP is not necessarily peer-run statewide, but we utilize our peer model. We may even be expanding soon. There are 14 of us now, and we are located in a great spot (Federal Way) for quick travel to where we need to go.

How did you become a provider of this service?

I was asked if I wanted to do it, and now I am! I believe in the Diversion. Recovery is hard anyways, but having someone to walk with you or show you where to go is invaluable. It can be difficult for someone to say, "this is what I want to do, but I have no help." Without knowing better, people continue their bad habits. You can go to treatment for 30 days, but after that, you are back on the streets and back to what you know unless the support is there to continue your recovery journey...

What is a common misconception people have about RNP?


Just ignorance in general; it is a very new service. We are running RNP from a peer aspect, not clinical like other programs. We'll never turn anyone away, even if it is not exactly what we do.


On a similar note, it's been encouraging to see that law enforcement officers care and have compassion for those struggling. They exist, and they don't want to toss them in jail and are willing to explore other options like utilizing RNP. It's nice to be reminded of that.

Is there anything more you wish you could do?

I wish the program were better set up for success. The State hastily put it together because of the Blake ruling that it’s difficult for law enforcement to know exactly what we do or how to utilize us. Getting the word out is always essential.

There has yet to be an extensive system for this in law enforcement. Therefore, sometimes they don't know how often a person has been stopped. So, we've been trying to make more connections with law enforcement and getting them to understand us better too. Things are still changing, hopefully for the better. They seem to be excited about what we are doing!

Currently, we operate until 7 pm, but we are likely expanding to 24/7 service soon, which will undoubtedly be an improvement.

OBHA with Michelle Tinkler

Don't forget to join us on February 9th in our Staff Connections Meeting (found in your Gmail calendar)

where we will talk all about OBHA!

In your words, what is the Office of Behavorial Health Advocacy (OBHA)?

It's a safe place for people receiving services or seeking service, even while they are stigmatized and not feeling like their voice is heard; we hear them. Even the ones afraid to talk, we go to them and figure out what's going on and work to help them. 

How did you become a provider of this service?

So, I started working in behavioral health in 2008. I wasn't liking how they were treating the people they were serving. It felt like they were herding cattle. It felt more like a corporation than a service. But they never listened to me since I didn't have a degree, so I went and got one. 

Then we had BHO, initially providing the service for Pierce County, but it has since spread out. 

Behavioral ombuds opened up, and I was asked to interview people for the position, but I decided to go ahead and add myself. The law to centralize ombuds in each region took three tries to get legislation through. Ombuds were doing this as a business. Now it is being managed properly and has our own network. Now info can be shared much easier, making it much more painless to support each other. 

What is a common misconception people have about your position?

We are mediators; we don't point the finger at providers. We bring them to the table and figure it out. We help those that don't fully know the process or rules, and we step in and be their voice when needed. 

Is there anything more you wish you could do?

I want more access to individuals. Sometimes, we can't call them back if they don't give us our access code. It would be nice to call and simply say, "we have an individual we are trying to reach," and can aid them from there. Also a potential reformation of the regions; some regions are much larger than others and have different needs. 

Family Navigator Service with Marsha Valenzuela

Don't forget to join us on January 12th in our Staff Connections Meeting (found in your Gmail calendar)

where we will talk all about our Family Navigator service!

In your words, what is King County Drug Diversion Court and the services associated?

In my words, the Family Navigator's role is to support any family member or chosen family members that have family members that suffer from addiction, mental health, and chronic illnesses.

How did you become a provider of this service?

The role of Family Navigator came open when engaged in another role, it was a permanent role, so I thought I would apply for it.


I had my own children removed from my care in 2001 because of my addiction. I got them back in my care within 10 months. I took advantage of all the services that were in place. I have 3 sons, 2 of whom suffer from mental health and addiction. I have learned so much to support them over the years, even the BOUNDARIES I had to use for my own mental health and the protection of my own recovery. So I thought I would be perfect in the role of the Family Navigator. I grew up taken away from my parents at 3 years old and never returned. All of this lived experience made me who I am today. If I can help just one family with support and care, then I have done okay. 

Is there a common misconception about your service? 

They think, at times, I am a Family Therapist, and I say I went to the school of Hard Knocks. LOL, Ph.D. Valenzuela.

Do you have a success story you could share?

I have a Mom that has been DCYF involved, CPS took her young son in May 2022, and now she is getting him back in about a week. I have a group just for CPS parents called, "Circle of Parents Support." She has attended this group and has gone above and beyond all that CPS has asked her to do, even extra parenting classes that she didn't have to take. I shared with her, they love their parents to do this, and she did it! Her UAs are all clean, and she has already completed the outpatient treatment. She says, being in this group with other parents has empowered her to regain her power. All the other parents in the group are so happy for her and have learned some valuable lessons on how to get your kids back. So sharing what works and what doesn't with others helps parents get their kiddos back quickly. 

A failure?

Failure is part of learning how to get creative and getting past some bumps in the road. I have to learn to do more marketing and outreach so my 5 pm Family Matters group can get better numbers. I'll be working on this!

Is there anything more you wish you could do?

If I had it my way, I would go into treatment services and love each individual and sit with them and remind them of their power we lose along the way. We forget how wonderful and powerful we are. DRUGS SUCK, and so many of our community members are stuck and don't want to live that way, but don't know how or where to start. 

Drug Diversion Court with Charles Tatum

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

where we will talk all about King County Drug Diversion Court!

In your words, what is King County Drug Diversion Court and the services associated?

Drug Court has definitely changed my life in so many ways when I really was about to go back to drugs and a life of crime. And, most important to me, that I never realized how much I suffered from mental illness. Drug court covers resources from housing, transportation, cell phones, treatments, mental health counseling, peer support, etc. 

How did you become a provider of this service?

I am a graduate of Drug Court. When coming to court, I had the opportunity to meet a peer supporter named Nya. She really opened my eyes to what Peer Washington was truly about and with Drug Court and Peer Support the ones who participate and follow through can truly appreciate the love and patience and that made me want to be more than a participant; I wanted to help. And here I am after two and a half years. 

Do you have a success story you could share?

All of my ride alongs and conversations in the jail and riding along to inpatients have been memorable. When I can see them thriving in society and we can see one another and recognize one another without shame, guilt, or bars separating our connections; that's powerful. I will always remain. 

A failure?

I have several of those recently. They had to do more so with them relapsing and not having the proper housing to get started.

Is there anything more you wish you could do?

I would like to have more access to the jail to visit with those who may be interested in Drug Court and Peer Support Services. Also, housing is another issue that needs to be addressed.

Resource Connections with Jack Harlan

Don't forget to join us on November 10th in our Staff Connections Meeting (found in your Gmail calendar)

where we will talk all about resource connections!

In your words, what is the Resource Coordinator position?

I see Resource Coordination as supporting people in achieving what are usually short-term goals. A lot of this is navigating the incredible & confusing maze of local services. This can be directing people to things like tenant advocacy groups, clothing providers, food banks in their neighborhood, free veterinary care. Talking about the processes to get ID, change a name, to get food benefits or insurance, to register to vote. Empowering people with the means & information to tackle the sort of one-off needs that don’t require the long term engagement that FCS or Family Navigation offer members, and referring to those and other internal services. And a lot of this is welcoming new members or completing intakes with people who call, walk in, or request help through the site. I’m often the first person to have a prolonged conversation or sit with someone, and I want to provide the best experience possible to help keep them engaged in Peer services. I also work Front Desk supporting our volunteers and Aary, which they described last week, and am in charge of Peer and Community Groups, which is a whole other conversation.

How did you become a provider of this service?

When I first landed in Seattle, I was directionless and completely lacking resources of my own. I fell back into service industry work, which I love but felt like a step backwards from my goals. So I found all this unfulfilling and a little bleak, and turned to volunteer work to keep my spirits up and buoy my self-worth by engaging with and giving back to local communities. I spent a lot of days at the front desk deepening my bonds with members and employees, and snapped at the Resource Connections opening when it came along. 

What is a common misconception?

The most common – and discouraging – place I see misconceptions is in the expectations of people that are often new to the trials they’re facing. A lot of people have this ingrained faith that the system works for them, that our institutions and people won’t let them slip too far. This just isn’t the case. There is almost no floor to the emotional, physical, mental, economic, spiritual destitution that our society permits. And when they start to see the unimaginable become a very real possibility there’s shock and denial. It’s hard to walk alongside people as they discover this, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to be there in those moments to support and to navigate around those pitfalls.

Do you have a success story you could share?

On my first day, Kimmy (who worked down here at the time, miss you) gave me a post-it with a name and number of someone to reach out to. They had been referred by someone else and so this became one of my first relationships. From time to time, a simple request leads to another and then another, and so from the start I followed this person’s journey to treatment in South Carolina, through their involuntary discharge and return to being unhoused in Seattle, through threats and calls of self harm. Together we got shelter, phones and benefits, the support of loved ones, health care and case work providers, an ambulance once. I was still refining where boundaries were, and where my mission ended but it was incredibly rewarding to follow this arc. They recently emailed (after a long silence) to thank
and reminisce, and update me on their rich new life in Ecuador.

A failure?

Like the person above, when I was new I had a hard time not getting too close to people. Or maybe its better to say, I had a hard time finding the line between being leaned on for support and being a crutch. I developed a powerful relationship with the sweetest boy, and the more he engaged in services the worse things got. Peer became a crisis center, and we were constantly putting out fires. Crisis responders, police, EMTs, no one could help him. He was desperate and scared. There was an ongoing dialogue among staff about where the boundary needed to finally go up. Finally, it was decided that we needed to put things on hold, and I volunteered to tell him. He was completely defeated and totally resigned. It was sincerely one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had, and I think about it a few times a week.

Is there anything more you wish you could do?

This is less something I wish I could do, but something I am forever in the process of doing. There are always more relationships to develop with people in other organizations, better connections to make, better hacks and shortcuts and inside dirt on all the hundreds of avenues of assistance out there for people who come in our doors. So I guess I wish I could know all this intuitively; impossible, but also always getting closer.

Volunteers and Front Desk with Aary Gariss

Don't forget to join us on October 13th in our Staff Connections Meeting (found in your Gmail calendar)

where we will talk all about our volunteer and front desk service!

In your words, what is the volunteer / front desk position?

Being the volunteer coordinator and the front desk person, in many ways, you set the vibe of the organization. You're responsible for keeping the people at the desk empowered and trained to help serve our members. The volunteers and I are the first experience people have when they walk through our door, so I'm always asking myself 'what would we like that experience to be? 'It has a lot to do with authenticity and joy, lowering barriers, being approachable, and being honest. People come here for a reason; we aren't a stark medical office. We can be warm and kind. 


So I spend about 50% of my time at the front desk - using my skills as a CPC to listen to the volunteers and members alike - making sure they feel seen and supported before they even get into a meeting with the other staff. Then when I'm not in the lobby, I'm in my office administrative work recruiting and interviewing potential volunteers, managing the volunteer schedule, keeping our process documents up-to-date, etc etc etc.

How did you become a provider of this service?

I went from volunteer to volunteer coordinator. I knew I wanted to work at Peer; volunteering got my foot in the door. In my former life I did a lot of managing artists and actors - and managing a group of volunteers has a lot of similarities. Marc refers to what we do as herding cats - and once you learn how to do that with one kind of cat you can do it with all kinds of cats.

What is a common misconception people have about your position and the front desk?

I struggle with thinking, "am I working enough," or am I just "hanging out?" But part of my job is to have fun, converse, and network. That's my own misconception that I work through, keeping that balance.

My job is also different from a lot of volunteer coordinator positions in other organizations. At Peer being a volunteer isn't just about community service. A lot of our volunteers are here because it is one of the only places they feel safe to be themselves, or to take the first step into re-integrating into the workforce, or sometimes even to have a place to be warm and out of the elements. My position is just as much about supporting the people on my team as it is about making sure we get everyone checked in for their appointments - and I take that very seriously.

What makes a good volunteer?

You might think people with a white-collar job background are the best fit for this reception/office admin position - but they can be inconsistent. You often get the most significant commitment from folks who are behind the desk because Peer has made a difference in their life, and they want to help others get that same support - regardless of their computer literacy or customer service experience.

Do you have a success story you could share?

I always like talking about Hop. She walked in looking for support and services and somehow got connected to me. When starting, she told me, "I am afraid of the computer." But we worked around that, initially just starting her doing some general cleaning and watching over the lobby on Sunday nights after our Trans Is Beautiful Group. After a while, we got her to conquer her fears and learned how to do the computer stuff too. She quickly won over everyone at Peer and we had an amazing Thanksgiving and Christmas together. Now Hop now facilitates SOR, she's a peer coach, and she's just started work on writing a book about her experience as a trans woman in the prison system. We have so few trans elders to look to and connect with - seeing her thrive and hearing her story is an honor. 

A failure?

I take chances on people, and sometimes they bite me in the ass. People talk a big game, wanting to be here all the time, how important this place is, etc., and then they straight up ghost me after one shift. But at the end of the day it's mostly my labor/brain power that goes into those interviews and training - so if I give someone the opportunity to step up and they don't rise to the occasion I've really mostly wasted my own time. But I think it's worth it because it means we get to benefit from many whom you may first think won't be very successful, but they surprise you.

 Is there anything more you wish you could do?

I'm always working to engage more with other services, resource connections, etc. Sometimes we have volunteers that help with our other services, like getting resumes edited/drafted for others looking for employment. I love that kind of collaboration.

What is Uncle Bob's voucher program?

Uncle Bob's voucher program allows us to offer free tickets to various artistic events (concerts, plays, shows, etc). We do this by networking and gathering these tickets for our members to take advantage of.

Uncle Bob was very prominent in the queer recovery community. He started the program because he had many connections to art which made getting free tickets to our members relatively easy.

When Dan mentioned starting this program back up to me, I jumped right on it. The way art connects us to our community and lowering barriers to art is a concept very close to my heart. We show our members that they CAN go to a beautiful symphony and don't have to spend all this money or dress up, etc. The work members are doing here is so difficult and they deserve to be given the opportunity to enjoy themselves. 

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.

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