Erika reveals the barriers her clients face when trying to access support services, particularly during the “new normal” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Erika is a Community Support Worker with LOFT’s Wilkinson Housing and Support Services program. She assists adults and seniors, helping them to build a better quality of life. “I coordinate the support network, and get our clients thinking about their own abilities and choices.”
LOFT looks at the whole person, going beyond basic needs. “I chose a job here because I wanted to engage with my clients in order to support their journey,” says Erika. “LOFT considers their social, emotional, cultural, and spiritual well-being.”
Erika assists people experiencing mental health challenges, struggling with addiction, and/or facing homelessness. She has seen the barriers her clients face when trying to access the services they need. “Many agencies have strict eligibility requirements and require extensive documentation to prove need. Due to life circumstances, some of our clients struggle to produce medical notes, tax returns, identification records and bank statements – it can be overwhelming.”
Most people rely on technology to keep themselves connected to the world. Many of Erika’s clients, however, lack either the financial means to purchase equipment or the technical skills to use it. “People can’t understand why our clients don’t access supports themselves, but it’s much more difficult than you’d think,” she explains. “Some services require an intake form that must be printed, signed, and scanned. How can you do that without a computer or a printer?”
Without technology, the pandemic is isolating. “Programs across the city are cancelled or reduced. Public spaces, such as coffee shops and libraries, are limited. Without those spaces to exist in, our clients are feeling more alone now than ever.”
“The hardest part has been the constant worry that one of my clients will get the virus,” she says. “Many of them have cognitive delays or specific mental health issues that make it hard for them to understand the severity of the virus and how to keep themselves safe.”
Erika is grateful for the opportunity to make a lasting impact through her work at LOFT. When she is not supporting her clients, she enjoys hobbies that get her body moving, such as yoga or dance. She also enjoys reading and spending time outdoors.
LOFT’s Wilkinson Housing and Support Services provides recovery and psychosocial rehabilitation services. It utilizes a peer support model to encourage natural support networks and includes clients in the decision-making process.