Trillium Project Evaluation: The PHA Engagement Project
The PHA Peer Engagement Project was a four year project funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, aimed at developing training, structured mentorship support and experiential learning opportunities for people living with HIV/AIDS (PHAs). This evaluation was collaboratively conducted by the Departments of research and community programs.
The objectives of this evaluation were:
- To assess peer involvement with Fife House Peer Engagement Project (PEP).
- To identify the challenges and successes of the project.
- To identify areas of growth and improvement of peer engagement.
- To identify future areas for peer engagement at Fife House.
Summary of Findings:
- Peer engagement invaluable in creating ‘inclusive’ and ‘trusted’ environment.
- Engagement with the project (PEP) facilitates integration into workplace.
- Mentorship (or lack of it) is critical in peer engagement and retention.
- Sense of belonging within workplace impacts sense of self.
- Fife House environment conducive for peer engagement work.
- Peer engagement increases a sense of community.
- Learning opportunities in boundaries and multiple roles also creates challenges.
- Confidence in agency as a ‘service user’, determines engagement as ‘peers’.
- Engagement as peer, positively impacts future aspirations.
- Meaningful placement of volunteers is key to the success of the program.
- Developing a strong core training and role specific training strengthens peer engagement.
- Holistic support system important for peer engagement.
- Navigation between multiple identities can pose challenges.
Sustaining Health Sustaining Housing is an evaluation study of our Jarvis Program investigating how PHAs, who have accessed support services, view the impact of these services on their housing experiences and their overall health. Thirty five residents (43%) were recruited and interviewed by the Peer Research Assistants for the quantitative study; fifteen went on to participate in focus groups.
The study reveals that supportive services at Jarvis have a positive impact on the lives of PHAs. Eighty nine percent (89%) indicated that it is important to have support services within the building. The majority of participants (66%) reported that they were satisfied with Fife House services and knowing that they are available enhanced a sense of security and reduced isolation.
“…you know with this disease you’re going to have a turn… And anyone who I know who’s…had a real hard time and struggling has felt very supported and very cared for by Fife.”
Although participants had competing concepts of community, the majority (98%) felt that their home provides them with a good location to live their lives. Fifty four percent (54%) of the participants had been residing at Jarvis for 6 years or more and 20% had been there for more than 12 years. The need for open and regular communication was an important theme throughout the study.
Homeless Outreach Program (HOP) Evaluation: The purpose was to uncover elements of the HOP operating effectively and those that need further development. Thirteen service users of the program were recruited for participation in three focus groups. Participants consisted of 7 males (53%) and 6 females (46%) with 85% having been in an unstable housing situation for 1 to 2 years.
Discrimination on the basis of race and employment status were identified by participants as significant barriers to accessing housing, while issues of disclosure and stigma presented barriers in maintaining housing. A significant difference was observed between the experiences of women with children and male participants. Abusive relationships and drug use were some of the factors leading to unstable housing situations.
Housing workers’ support was reported to be helpful in diffusing issues of discrimination. While the program provides service users with learning opportunities, information, support and skills, those facing housing issues became anxious when staff were unable to return calls rapidly. Recommendations focused on 24 hour on call support, more staff and a website and/or monthly workshop encouraging social networking. The latter indicates a willingness to learn new skills and navigate and address housing issues independently.