On a winter day in December last year, I drive out to Orca Place in Parksville to meet up with two participants of Project Rise. The new ICCS program aims to deliver pre-employment and employment skills training as well as work placement opportunities to people who have experienced homelessness, but are now ready to re-integrate fully into community life. The program started in August 2021 and the first six program participants are ready to graduate in one week’s time.
I meet two of the soon to be graduates, Tyra and Kevin, in the multi purpose room after their workshop wrapped up for the morning. Having gone through group-based learning and workshops and learning practical skills I am curious to check in with Kevin and Tyra and see what their hopes are for their future.
Asked how they liked the program Kevin replied “It’s been a fun course. Gives you a purpose to do stuff.” Tyra adds ”…making resumes. All the things that you need to get a job. Managing your time wisely.”
Many ICCS clients face barriers to employment and re-connection to the community. This is where Project Rise steps in offering life skills, pre-employment and employment skills training and select work placements for program participants such as Kevin and Tyra supporting them on their path towards recovery and independence.
Asked what inspired them to take part in Project Rise, Kevin explains: “They posted it on the board and yeah, we’re always looking for something to do, something different.” Tyra adds: “We read the outline and we asked what it entailed, what it was about. We learned that it was set up to learn how to go back to work, cover letters and resumes, the things that you would have to do. What you were good at, things that would involve yourself, searching out things that you were good at, other things you can find out about yourself, you know, be more looking inside yourself and then just kind of sitting back and doing that.”
Kevin points out: “Even though I have done that stuff before it was good to do it again. You know, to upgrade the food safe. First aid. All that stuff.”
I am curious to find out what Kevin and Tyra enjoyed most about the program and Tyra points out: “Crafts. Being creative. Have something to show for, dryer balls. That’s another nice part of it. It’s something that you actually have to put yourself out there to do. You definitely have to be there to do it. You have to put yourself there, you have to get up, you have to go out and do what you are supposed to do. You’re actually learning more about yourself.” “Who you are at this point in life.” Kevin notes. ”Yeah, I was really curious about myself cause I have been just really sick for the last five or six years. I am just getting back, to see what I can do, what I am capable of. It’s been really good.” he adds.
While our current programs strive to support clients where they are, the leap from homelessness to supported housing to independent community life is great. Unless we equip clients with real skills they can use to find a way back to community, to navigate through the job market and to fill gaps in knowledge and experience from how to balance a cheque book to how to communicate effectively with others, the leap is often too great.
With these essential skills, however, possibility is born. This is very much the case with Kevin and Tyra. They have both lived at Orca Place since it opened about two years ago. They like it there and are looking forward to what the future might bring after having completed the Project Rise training.
Tyra hopes to keep crafting handmade goods and to have a small business on the side.
Kevin is not sure what he wants to do. He worked as a care aid until he got too sick. After a bout with lung cancer, and then brain cancer, he is back to normal now. He is thinking of getting a job as an activity facilitator as there is a need for that. He doesn’t have a certificate for it yet, but wants to work towards it. Kevin is currently helping with the renovation of the new Project Rise office space above the Nanaimo Bakery.
Tyra’s background is in the medical field. “I started as an LPN and worked up to surgical nurse.” She says. “I wanted to be a doctor at one time. I worked as an intern. And then I had an accident and was in a coma for a while. When I woke up things were all messed up.” she adds. That was 13 years ago. Tyra explains that she doesn’t remember a lot of things. “Things happen. You can either close yourself off or keep going” she says.
Mentioning the upcoming graduation from Project Rise, Kevin remarks: “I can’t believe it’s almost over. It went by quick. Time passes pretty fast. ”Tyra adds: “It keeps you so busy, It breaks down days. You learn to keep a schedule, go to meetings, go here, go there… She emphasizes: “You learn a lot, especially if you have never done a resume. There are so many jobs.” Kevin points out that the skills learned from Project Rise have helped him get job ready.”
Both Tyra and Kevin are looking forward to graduating from Project Rise and they are excited to see what the future will bring.