Community Peer Program
DEWC initiated the Community Peer Program at the time of the pandemic to ensure the most vulnerable women in the neighbourhood were being reached. The Community Peer Program is a low-barrier, non-judgmental bridge to connect vulnerable women with integrated services to keep them safe.
Peers are DEWC members (women who regularly utilize our services and guide the organization through consultation and a vote) with lived or living experience. Because of this experience, peers are often better equipped to de-escalate certain situations and empathize with women than frontline staff.
DEWC currently has 45 community peers with various abilities. They work alongside DEWC staff to serve meals, restock PPE and clothing donations, and run reception; they help women navigate DEWC’s integrated services and provide harm reduction materials and information to keep women safe. The program is flexible for Peers, taking into account they have multiple barriers to employment, and pays a stipend of $20 per hour. Peers also attend in-house training and workshops.
Women hired through the Peer Program are DEWC members who regularly access our services. This program offers these women an opportunity to be employed in a safe, familiar environment, where they have already built relationships and trust with existing staff. In some cases, women living at the emergency shelter are supported to work at the very same shelter. Women who are part of this program have expressed that after working as a community peer, they feel more comfortable and empowered to find employment outside of DEWC. In all cases, women gain not only essential skills, employment training and income, but a sense of collectivity, purpose and pride.