Kory Trott dreams of one day helping others.
“I’m thinking I might go into counselling. That’s something I might take at college,” Trott told Global News.
Having hope for the future is a giant leap from where the Kelowna woman was just two months earlier.
“I didn’t even know I could be useful,” she said. “Now I’m positive there is something that I could contribute.”
Trott is one of 30 graduates of an innovative employment program funded by Interior Health and the City of Kelowna.
The group have lived experiences of homelessness and/ or drug use.
“Individuals with lived experience really want the opportunity to contribute positively to their community ideally through employment,” Urban Matters spokesperson Erin Welk said.
Urban Matters, a company of advisors which boasts expertise in numerous areas including social innovation and social enterprise development, launched the employment initiative of Paid Employment for People with Lived Experiences (PEOPLE) in Kelowna and said it is one of the first of its kind in Canada.
“Although these are individuals with multiple barriers to employment, they’re individuals with incredible stories of personal resilience,” Welk said.
For eight weeks, the group took courses on subjects that included “non-violent communication, indigenous history, financial literacy, self-care, resilience in the workplace,” according to Welk.
The City of Kelowna offered Urban Matters contracts to provide work opportunities for the cohort. New contracts are still being developed.
“They’re working on a variety of different contracts right now,” Welk said. “They’re working on a city beautification project, cleaning up a little, weeding, doing different cleanup projects for the city.”
Welk said the workers are fully supported in their roles to encourage success.
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“Our community doesn’t need to be fearful of these individuals,” she said. “They’re contributing and trying to make Kelowna a better place like anyone else.”
Participants like Trott look forward to using their skills to help the community better relate to those on the streets or living with addiction.
“We know what to look for and how to help people in the same situation,” she said.
The next group will begin training early in the next year, according to Welk.
PEOPLE was outlined in the Journey Home Strategy, the multi-agency effort to combat homelessness in Kelowna.