Wood's Homes Blog

Q&A with Street Services team staff member

July 30, 2015
By Stuart Gradon, Wood's Homes Online Communications Coordinator
Q&A with Street Services team staff member

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.

A: My name is Simon Lai and I have been with Woods Homes since 2007. I started out working in the Phoenix Program and eventually moved on to the Community Resource Team (CRT). I am currently part of the Street Services Team.

When not at work, I spend most of my time on two wheels (cycling and motorcycling), hanging out with my wife and family, and doing whatever is necessary to get recharged for work. I value self-care and feel coming to work in a good head-space is one of the most important things in this field.

Q: What does your program do?

A: I am currently part of the Coordinated Access and Assessment Team (CAA), a partnership between Woods Homes, Distress Centre, and The Calgary Homeless Foundation. I am primarily located in the Safe Communities Opportunity and Resource Centre (SCORCe), but also do outreach at EXIT Outreach and The Alex Youth Health Centre.

The role of CAA is to provide a centralized access point for vulnerable adults, family, and youth to access case managed supportive housing programs. These programs are based on the housing first philosophy and are typically designed for those that have a chronic history of homelessness and face multiple high-risk concerns and barriers to accessing housing on their own.  We also provide clients who are not a fit for housing first programs with support around what supports/services to connect with to help them move out of homelessness.

My main focus is the end of youth homelessness and my role is to provide intake and assessment into CAA programs, crisis counselling, some light touch case management, and taking part in the weekly youth placement committee.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working in your program?

A: My favourite part of the job is being able to meet all the different types of clients that come through our doors and hearing their stories. Everyone has a narrative and a large part of my job is to support clients in telling their story to services and supports with the hopes of moving them forward in their lives. Being able to see a crisis through and move towards some level of stability is a process and I like being a part of it.

Q: What is your favorite story or memory from this program?

A: Most recently, I had a client that was in her early twenties, but had already lived through more trauma and life experience than most of our university and college graduates. Her housing had been unstable, at best, over the past 4 years due to multiple risk factors and she eventually chose to connect with me to explore housing options within our system of care. The client realized that trying to "do things on [her] own" was not working anymore and she needed supports to help her attain and, most importantly, maintain housing. Upon first presenting to me, the client was worn down, struggling with her mental health, working to get off pharmaceutical drugs, and trying to get out of unsafe living arrangements.

I was able to follow-up with her a couple weeks after she was connected with a housing program. She was ecstatic to have already moved into a space and spoke proudly about making the right connections in the community to help her move forward in life. The client was able to turn a new page in her story and I like to think that I had a small part in making that happen.

Q: What are some of the challenges? How do you get around these challenges?

A: One of the biggest challenges is the coordination of services between many different agencies and programs within our system of care. This is the first time that I have worked with so many organizations towards one goal, to end homelessness in Calgary.

Luckily, all of these agencies have been open to ongoing dialogue around how best to manage the system of care to make it serve our clients the best it can.

Q: What inspires you every day?

A: Seeing the level of resilience in the youth I make contact with inspires me to keep working with them to make their goals a reality.

Also, knowing that I am engaged in work that makes a difference in our community gets me stoked every day! I like to think that the small gains we make, day-to-day, will lead to some real long-term shifts in tackling this issue of homelessness in our city.