Over the past nine months, people who have lived experience with homelessness have been cleaning up around Penticton.
ASK Wellness Society’s Peer Ambassador program has employed 40 people who have collectively worked over 1,000 hours, cleaning up over 6,000 lbs of garbage.
“I’ve heard from participants about the effects the program has had on their mental health. They’ve been able to budget their money better, they feel good about themselves when out in the community, and it also strengthens their trust in others,” said the program’s team lead, Keith Girard.
“I’ve directly witnessed participants becoming more open and comfortable sharing their struggles and background as they participate in the program.”
ASK Wellness Society operates two supportive housing sites in Penticton, Burdock House and Fairhaven.
People living at these supportive housing sites have the opportunity to be hired within ASK’s Peer Ambassador Program. While not earning a wage, they are provided with stipends via gift cards to access food and life necessities.
“It was developed with the intention of providing individuals with pre-employment skills and personal growth through community clean-up, debris pick-up and safe sharps disposal,” read the ASK Wellness release.
Teresa Muir, one of the ambassadors, said being a part of the program has helped her self-esteem and mental health.
“I’d be lost without this program, it feels good to be part of this and I really look forward to it,” said Muir in an ASK Wellness Society video.
The ambassador program launched in August of last year with temporary financial support from BC Housing. Shortly after, the City of Penticton entered a partnership with the society, providing $5,000 for the program.
“The City of Penticton is proud to be able to support ASK Wellness Society and the Peer Ambassador program, which provide an opportunity for individuals to learn new skills, connect to the community and help create a cleaner and safer home for all of us,” said Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki.
“This is an innovative project that shows how by working together, we can make a difference for those in need.”
The organization says that funding runs out in August and the program will not continue if they don’t receive additional funding beforehand.
“ASK is hoping to identify and receive support from corporate and private donors to assist in keeping the program running,” read the ASK Wellness Society release.