Page 15 - Presbyterian Connection
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FALL 2021
Peer Worker
Program at ehm
 Hope, healing and recovery through compassionate employment
By Jennifer Sully-Ferraro,
Sr. Director of Programs & Client Care, Evangel Hall Mission
At Evangel Hall Mission (ehm) in To- ronto, Ont., clients come through our doors bearing the weight of difficult and often traumatic life stories. We may not get to know the histories that lead each client to our doors, but we know this: they are here now and they are welcome.
It’s our honour and privilege to be a ministry that offers welcome, sanc- tuary and hope to people experienc- ing homelessness, poverty, addiction and mental health challenges. For over a century, ehm’s Drop-In Centre has made this part of downtown To- ronto a warmer, safer place. In more recent years, our residence has been home to some of Toronto’s hardest- to-house singles and families, and our dental clinic has served those who would otherwise suffer without oral health care.
Hope is the foundational value of our latest initiative—the Peer Worker Program. Part of our rapidly grow- ing Spiritual Care Program, the Peer Worker Program employs individuals with personal, lived experience with a
mental health or addiction issue. As you can imagine, gaining employ- ment is a pivotal step in securing and maintaining housing.
Peer Workers intentionally share their lived experience as a means of providing support and connecting with others experiencing similar chal- lenges. They have a variety of duties that support the day-to-day opera- tions of the Drop-In Centre, such as helping clients access the showers and laundry facility. They help make the program run more smoothly and efficiently.
More than that, Peer Workers help clients access services sooner, make earlier interventions possible and make ehm’s programs even more accessible for those considered to be the hardest to reach. Clients will generally open up quickly with Peer Workers and Peer Workers can pick up on a client’s needs and create so- lutions in unique ways facilitated by their shared experiences. There’s a kinship, a short-hand, among Peer Workers and clients that comes from having gone through the proverbial trenches together.
Peer Workers act as a bridge that connects even more disparate people
For Peer Worker Eric, his art is one way to connect and express his healing and faith journeys.
pastoral care, employment support and life-skills training.
Unlike traditional jobs with stand- ardized training and performance- measurement processes, this pro- gram is immersive, supportive and compassionate. Linear job progres- sion certainly isn’t expected here. The program is flexible, expecting and accommodating of difficulties.
The results over the past year have been profound. Peer Workers have secured permanent housing, over- come health challenges, fought for and maintained sobriety, learned to budget (after first learning how to set up a bank account), and experienced the joy of buying a piece of furniture. Peer Workers are rapidly becoming fixtures and mentors in the Drop-In. I’m so excited and grateful to envision how more lives will be changed as the program grows in the coming years.
The Presbyterian community has stood with ehm, faithfully supporting our growth and response to commu- nity needs. Our longevity is a testa- ment to God’s abundance and grace, and this new part of ehm’s ministry came about because of the generos- ity of so many Presbyterians. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are always welcome to learn more at or connect with us at
 to ehm’s community resources. And they offer themselves as living role models, sharing their own struggles and life journeys. Peer Workers help clients persevere through today’s dif- ficulties in order to reach for a better tomorrow. They model, share and inspire hope and love.
Being a Peer Worker isn’t simply a job, it’s a calling.
But being a Peer Worker is dif- ficult. Trauma, addiction and men- tal illness are long-term challenges that don’t disappear overnight just because a job’s been secured. Peer Workers are still on their own heal- ing journeys, working through their own recoveries, and are choosing to support clients experiencing all-too- familiar challenges. The dangers of
being triggered, defined as anything that prompts an increase in or return of symptoms, are very real.
That’s why our Peer Worker Pro- gram is entrenched in the Spiritual Care Program.
Spiritual Care is rooted in the re- storative power of offering uncondi- tional love and grace that reaffirms and reawakens a person’s sense of self, dignity and worth. Through the Peer Worker Program, the Spiritual Care team helps individuals work through their challenges, re-establish their sense of self and worth, and reconnect with community, all while maintaining employment that can help them break free from the cycles of poverty and homelessness. Peer Workers experience a unique blend of
 Gifts to Presbyterians Sharing are helping to change lives.
  Quilting for Justice in Calgary
  The quilts set up for their blessing in the sanctuary.
volunteers showed up and started creating or asking how they could support the quilters. Some members didn’t sew by machine, instead they gathered and became the group that hand-stitched all the binding. Others donated fabric and “notions.” It is heartwarming to see the community show up and provide their support in so many ways, just as they did on that sunny Saturday in March.
The Grace Quilters have partnered with the Rotary Club of Calgary on a project in Mexico. The Rotary Club of Calgary has been working to build five homes in Mexico for families in need. The quilters have lovingly cre- ated beautiful quilts to present to five young families involved in the project. The five families consist of three sets of parents, two mothers,
The quilters at Grace Presbyterian Church in Calgary, Alta.
a grandmother, a great-grandmother and nine children ranging in age from 3 to 16 years. The quilters have taken great delight in choos- ing the quilts and will be sending 16 handmade quilts in total.
Thank you, Grace Quilters, for all your hard work!
 By Armiel Zacharias and Joni Ermter, Grace Presbyterian Church
in Calgary, Alta.
On March 27, 2021, the Grace Quilt- ers at Grace Presbyterian Church in Calgary, Alta., had a socially dis- tanced gathering in the church’s south parking lot. Due to the Covid-
related restrictions, it was their first in-person meeting in over a year. So, this gathering was a day that brought tears of joy to our friends who make up the Quilters.
The Grace Quilters are an active group. It’s hard to believe that togeth- er they have made over 850 quilts since 2005. Back then, so many

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