Photo: Ask Wellness
Over the past nine months, people wearing safety vests have worked hard to clean up the Penticton community, picking up more than 6,000 pounds of trash and 150 sharp objects.
ASK Wellness Society Peer Ambassadors are program participants who have lived experience of homelessness and who support cleanup efforts in the community.
The interior-based social services agency currently operates two supportive housing sites in the city, Burdock House and Fairhaven.
Ambassadors at these supportive housing sites can be hired through ASK’s Peer Ambassador program and, although they don’t earn a salary, receive stipends through gift cards to access the food and the necessities of life.
The program, which began operations in August 2021, is temporarily funded with financial support from BC Housing. The City of Penticton also entered into a partnership with ASK Wellness Society in November 2021, providing $5,000 to the program.
“The City of Penticton is proud to be able to support ASK Wellness Society and the Peer Ambassador Program, which provide individuals with the opportunity to learn new skills, connect to the community and help create a cleaner, healthier home. safe for all of us,” Mayor John Vassilaki said in a press release.
“This is an innovative project that shows how, by working together, we can make a difference for those in need.”
Keith Girard, team leader, has witnessed firsthand the positive results of the program.
“I heard from participants about the effects of the program on their mental health. They have been able to budget their money better, they feel good about themselves when they are in community and it also boosts their confidence in others. I have directly seen participants become more open and comfortable sharing their struggles and backgrounds while participating in the program,” Girard said.
One program participant said he was particularly touched by the audience’s response.
“I love the welcome we get when we are in the community, people wave at us, smile and tell us to keep up the good work,” they said.
Forty Ambassadors have collectively worked over 1,000 hours and recently supported the city’s Bylaws team in cleaning up a homeless encampment and continue to respond to calls from the community.
Temporary funding for the program will end in August 2022. To keep the program running, ASK hopes to identify and receive support from corporate and private donors to help with funding.
To learn more about the ASK Wellness Society program, visit their website here.
Contributed to ASK well-being