Volunteers with the Westside Anglicans Neighbourhood Ministry took part in multiple training sessions this summer and the sessions will continue being offered in to the fall, aimed at enhancing skills and gaining a deeper theological understanding of their work.
The Neighbourhood Ministry, a 2018-2019 care+share recipient, provides services to homeless and vulnerable people on Vancouver’s Westside. This includes basic medical and social service support, offered through the Ministry’s Mobile Care Unit (MCU), weekly street walks to connect with homeless people in the area, and community-building programs at a nearby Supportive Housing building in the Dunbar neighbourhood.
“Training volunteers has always been an essential part of our program”, notes clergy leader the Reverend Dr. Pitman Potter. “Grounding folks in the theological inspiration behind our work provides us with the strength to carry out what can often be a heartbreaking mission. Matthew, Luke, and the letters of James, among others, offer repeated guidance about our responsibility to serve the needy, and to love and show mercy to our neighbours. We all gain so much by spreading this love.”
Practical skills in serving vulnerable populations were also enhanced over 4 training sessions. Participants explored issues around safety, behavioral impacts of mental illness and addictions, and the array of resources - such as housing, income and medical assistance – available to those struggling with poverty and health issues. Volunteers practiced completing various types of applications, and reviewed the requirements for retrieving lost identification for clients. Volunteers also received specific orientation “on the job” at Mobile Care Unit sites, ensuring they know what to do in case of an emergency, how to document client interactions, and most of all, how to deliver services in a caring, non-judgmental way. Says volunteer Lynne Taylor, “The training provides us with the resources to address the needs and concerns of the people we meet at the MCU sites, and also strengthens bonds between individual volunteers who are all working toward a common goal”. Remarks her husband Dana, also a volunteer, “I have learned the importance of listening.” Joan Stewart, a long-time volunteer, offers “During the training program, there is thoughtful discussion about works done from a Christ-centred focus, compared with those done from a secular perspective."
In October of 2018, the Neighbourhood Ministry welcomes two third year students from the UBC School of Social Work who will spend the year doing a 20-hour per week practicum. These students will receive training, enhanced with research projects, before spending time at MCU sites alongside other volunteers and their medical counterparts. Feedback from Social Work faculty liaisons indicates that the MCU is considered a top placement for students, providing students with invaluable training and experience to complement their classroom studies. Similarly, the UBC School of Medicine’s Family Practice Unit now includes rounds at MCU sites for all of its Residents during their 4-6 month program at UBC, with their Director Dr. Janet McKeown acknowledging that it provides an excellent opportunity for students to learn about different conditions and treatment options that vulnerable populations present, as well as social service supports that are critical to healthy living.
The Neighbourhood Ministry appreciates the support of care+share donations, which contribute toward the work of the Mobile Care Unit.
For more information, please visit the Neighbourhood Ministry’s website
The Reverend Dr. Pitman Potter leads a training session.