January 22 – 28 each year marks the annual Emergency Shelter and Homelessness Service Worker Appreciation Week in Toronto: a time to acknowledge and thank front-line workers in the emergency shelter and homelessness services sector for their unwavering commitment and extraordinary contributions. During this special week, we take the opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude to the exceptional individuals within our team at Fife House who tirelessly care for our clients and communities. The following is an interview with one such member of the Fife House team, Raj – a Housing Program Worker .
What inspired you to work in emergency shelter and homelessness services, especially in supporting individuals living with HIV/AIDS?
Personally, I have been precariously housed before and as an immigrant who is not accustomed to the cold weather, I had an extremely difficult time and realized how important it is for people to have support in finding housing.
Can you share a memorable experience or success story in your role that has impacted you and/or your clients?
A client had come to see me for help in receiving support to get their own housing because their current housing situation was preventing them from maintaining their sobriety. I advocated for them to be in our transitional housing program and, while in it, was able to apply for City of Toronto Rent-Geared-to-Income housing. Today, that person is flourishing in their own apartment, sober and helping others with addictions issue.
What unique challenges have you faced in your work, and how have these experiences shaped your perspective on the importance of supporting those living with HIV/AIDS?
Many people, when diagnosed with HIV, take time off to focus on their physical and mental health. After some time, these people want to get back to living a full and normal life but face many barriers due to the time lapse. This unique challenge creates problems in many aspects of a person’s life, that leave a lasting effect on their income and housing situation.
How have you supported the mental and social well-being of clients in your care, considering the challenges they face If you were advising a friend, family member, or loved one on caring for their mental well-being, what advice would you offer?
By creating and providing capacity building opportunities. Providing those in need of support with the space to contribute and build themselves up, capacity building and providing opportunities they may not find elsewhere, helps to build self-esteem and help people get to where they want to be.
Thank you for your invaluable insights and generous support, Raj. If you were advising a friend, family member, or loved one on caring for their mental well-being, what advice would you offer?
My advice would be to listen closely to what the person wants and meet them where they are at. Try not to impose what you think they need and/or want but rather help them achieve their own personal goals.
Thank you for your invaluable insights and generous support, Raj.
If you would like to support the valuable work that Raj and dedicated staff like them are doing, you can make a difference by donating to Fife House. Your contribution will directly support programs and services that provide essential support – including access to food/meals and other wellness services – to individuals and families living with HIV, including those who are unhoused/experiencing houselessness, mental health and addiction challenges in Toronto.