Head and Hands relaunches street worker program
MONTREAL – “Today at Head and Hands, we’re celebrating the return of our street worker program.”
These words brought Juniper Belshaw a tremendous amount of joy. She is a coordinator at the organization, and she’s been waiting over two years for this announcement.
“Street work embodies our mission,” said the director of Head and Hands, Jon McPhedran Waitzer.
“In many ways it’s about providing services that youth can’t access elsewhere, and bringing in youth who are falling through social safety net.”
The program will include one full-time employee whose main responsibility will be to work with marginalized youth in the community.
According to Belshaw, the program puts Sara, “our street worker, out in the streets doing needle exchange, giving out thousands of condoms, crack kits.”
She’s out in the metro, parks, shooting galleries, reaching at risk youth where they’re at.”
Budgetary cuts in funding from the government had caused the program to be shut down for the last two years, but with private funding and community support, it is up and running again.
NDG city councillor, Peter McQueen was on-hand on Monday for the announcement.
“I was very happy when Jon called me and told me we closed this deal, that we’re going to have a street worker back on the streets as of this morning,” he said, just after Sara cut the ribbon in front of the NDG office on Monday.
For Sara, it will be a relief to be able to get back to helping a community she feels so closely tied to.
She was quick to point out that “whether it be offering someone a clean needle to helping them get started on welfare or finding a house, it embodies the holistic approach, which is great.”
Having worked on the program in the past, Sara has built an unshakable bond with many young people in the community.
“It takes time,” she noted.
“You build trust with people, they choose to come to you, and it’s voluntary – you meet youth where they are at.”
Due to the nature of the program, some marginalized members of the community have been able to get back on their feet, and that’s important for the people working there.
Head and Hands has been operating since 1970. In addition to the street work program, the organization also offer medical clinics, free counselling and legal services, accessed over 21,000 times in the last year alone.
© 2013 Shaw Media