LOFT’s Transitional Age Youth (TAY) program offers a support group for survivors of human trafficking. This service is a low barrier, safe space that works on a drop-in basis for people who are at risk of trafficking, who were/are trafficked, or who were/are engaged in sex work.
A survivor herself, Kaitlin became a program facilitator to help instill hope in others going through the challenges of human trafficking. “What you went through doesn’t have to be for nothing,” she says. “What you went through matters.”
Her work continues through the pandemic. The group was gathering outdoors during the summer to ensure social distancing. With the change of seasons, they will aim to stay connected virtually, but the lack of access to technology can be a barrier.
Kaitlin also leverages her experience in a Peer Support Worker role at LOFT Crosslinks Housing and Support Services and Crosslinks Street Outreach and Services Network programs. Having experienced homelessness and addiction herself, she has a unique point of connection with clients. “They are the most loving and kind people. They don’t have anywhere to go,” she explains.
Through these programs, Kaitlin helps support clients facing food insecurity, addiction, and who need mental, physical and spiritual support. “Clients teach me how to be a better person and a better worker,” she says. By developing close relationships with her clients, Kaitlin is empowered to provide personalized support.
As clients have to isolate themselves to stay protected from COVID-19, new challenges arise. LOFT’s drop-in centres are now closed, which means that clients no longer have a place to go for food, to shower, or to connect with others in the community.
With constant isolation also comes mental health deterioration. Clients struggling with substance abuse, for example, often rely on a network of peers. These relationships normally help them to stay sober. Now, wellness tools that work best in a group setting are no longer available to them.
Thankfully, LOFT’s Street Outreach and Services Network program has a van that operates seven days a week, meeting clients where they are and bringing them a warm meal. Kaitlin, and her team at LOFT Crosslinks, work relentlessly to prevent clients from feeling alone.