RVRC had a desire to provide more than a bed. We seized the opportunity to design and implement a program to enhance our existing structure by incorporating activities that were therapeutically structured. We embraced the concept of "each one teach one" by utilizing the true nature of peer services. We recognized the strengths and experiences of our consumers and embraced their unique ability to provide valuable insight, compassion and empathy. RVRC aimed to empower consumers by empowering them to make "real decisions" that impacted their life and the life of others. We recognize the power of lived experience and refuse to downplay these experiences and/or elevate professional experience above peer experience. Our use of peers elucidates congruency far beyond the basic understanding of the intended concept. In essence, we believe homeless individuals that suffer from mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders are more likely to impact others with similar backgrounds.
RVRC has been funded by the Delaware Division of Substance and Mental Heath since 2009. These funds are to operate a day services and emergency shelter program for homeless, mentally ill and co-occurring disorder consumers. We secured contracts with the Rockford Center and Meadowwood Hospital, both in-patient mental heath facilities to provide outreach sessions and to assist with transitioning their homeless consumers back into the community ... the partnership is invaluable. Once we implemented the revised shelter program structure, RVRC received on-going referrals from numerous service providers that witnessed the program’s activities while visiting their clients at the shelter program. Service providers have expressed their appreciation for our efforts to engage clients in therapeutic oriented activities which helps them to work more effectively with their clients while housed at RVRC. RVRC has attended several community based meetings to inform agencies of our program and has hosted numerous tours of RVRC.
The current structure utilizes peer shelter participants as change agents. There are no additional funds required to implement, manage or monitor the program's activities. RVRC adjusted the certified alcohol and drug counselor's schedule to provide clinical and programmatic support as appropriate. The master's level and CADC clinician position is that of supplemental support. The concept of utilizing peers as change agents is not unique within itself as l2 step self-help programs have utilized this concept with huge success. Hence, replicability is easily obtained via this process. The strength of the concept and ability to replicate this process across racial, socio-economic, etc. lines is more easily understood when the model yields to a belief that people are capable of change and deserve to be empowered despite any assigned societal labels. The power of replication is in acknowledgment that this population, any population are capable of being true change agents.