Submitted by Kelowna Gospel Mission
2021 was a heart-warming and heart-breaking year for the caseworkers at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission. As caseworkers, they spend their days connecting with and supporting every person who stays at one of our three emergency shelters.
Out of the 170 people that live at our shelters and women’s homes, almost all have a past that includes childhood trauma and neglect. The people who come to an emergency shelter do so as a last resort.
Unfortunately, many in our community have harshly judged many of our residents, but sadly that pales in comparison to how harshly they judge themselves. This leads them to become stuck in a cycle of shame, making it almost impossible for them to move forward. Release for them often comes in the form of self-medicating with illicit drugs and alcohol, which further exacerbates their feelings of guilt and shame.
They feel like they are invisible, like they are nobody. When our Caseworkers step in, without judgement, they listen to and help our residents formulate a plan to move forward. But more importantly, they give them the gift of hope!
Something as simple as helping a person get an identification card can transform a person’s life and be that first step toward significant change. After years of feeling like nobody, they finally are somebody – they belong.
Daily, our amazing caseworkers experience the full gamut of emotions, including tears of joy when they see the lights go on for one of their clients. However, the opioid crisis took away much of the joy in their work as week after week they learned of the deaths of many of their beloved clients. Call after call came in reporting the devastating news of another beautiful soul lost. Our caseworker team felt and mourned every client who was lost.
Another challenge in 2021 was finding housing for those experiencing homelessness. With the opioid crisis and the isolating COVID virus, 2021 was truly a trifecta of disaster.
However, there have also been many wins. Our caseworkers were able to help 74 people find a place of their own this year. While down from the 90 people housed last year, every person housed is a huge win and a reason to celebrate. Let’s make 2022 the year that we all work to help every person feel seen, valued and heard.
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