Inn-Home Support Advocate Information

 

The Inn-Home Support Program was established as a means to provide support to persons who are presently housed, often in somewhat precarious situations.

Premise

This program has been created in order to lend support to persons who have found housing after previously experiencing homelessness. To clarify, Advocates of Inn From The Cold – Kelowna support clients who are in housing already, we do not find housing for homeless people; this task is covered by various outreach agencies in Kelowna. However, outreach agencies and workers have stated that they do not have the manpower at times to support clients on a long term or on-going basis after clients have found housing. It has been shown that there are various difficulties for clients in housing that affect them and for which they could use support with; anything ranging from loneliness to a need for advocacy in order to successfully live in their housing situation.

With the help of Advocates, who volunteer their time to do in home visits or meet with clients, these clients are given the opportunity to receive the needed support in order to continue to stay in housing, and not become evicted or once again, homeless. It gives former homeless clients a better chance with living in housing, service providers receive extra help, and advocates gain valuable volunteer experience acting as a person of good-will.

Whose clients are involved?

This program has been started as an initiative from Inn From The Cold – Kelowna, who provides emergency beds and food during the coldest months of the year. The Inn-Home Support program has been created both for our guests and for other outreach agencies’ clients. Often our guests are also part of or in contact with many other outreach agencies in Kelowna. In this way we share the same clientele, all who are people who have experienced homelessness and are in need of in home support.

Who are the clients?

The clients are adults, couples and sometimes families who have been referred to the Inn from the Cold – Kelowna Volunteer coordinator by service providers throughout Kelowna. Clients are persons who were or are currently struggling with the effects of experiencing homelessness, mental illness, alcohol and/or drug issues, abuse, and/or other issues.

Who are the Inn-Home Support Advocates?

All of the Advocates whether they have or have not previously volunteered for Inn From The Cold – Kelowna, will be seen as volunteers of Inn From The Cold – Kelowna. There may be volunteers who have come from various church organizations, or from St. Vincent De Paul, or persons who personally contacted us to volunteer for this program. However, in order to become an Inn-Home Support Advocate all volunteers will become part of the Inn from the Cold umbrella volunteer base. This means, to act as an Advocate, the volunteer must be participating in the Inn-Home Support training session, sign a confidentiality agreement, and submit a criminal record check to Inn From The Cold – Kelowna.

Orientation sessions will be held on an on-going basis throughout the year and volunteers can find out more info on the program through these and through our website.

Additional training will be provided to those volunteers who decide to become Advocates. Anyone interested in being an advocate must provide non-judgmental service in keeping with the rights and dignity of all persons, free from religious teaching and respectful of personal boundaries. These concepts can be summed up in the phrase, “persons of good will”.

Service Providers/Outreach Agencies’ Process (for making referrals)

When the service provider has a client in need of an Inn-Home Support Advocate, the service provider is to contact the Volunteer Coordinator. We may discuss the needs of the client over the phone, or an in-person appointment may be made with the Volunteer Coordinator to bring the client so all three of us can meet together. In this meeting, the Volunteer Coordinator will ask what needs and interests the client has and what skills the Advocate should have in order to be a good match. The information gathered from this meeting will be entered in a confidential client database.

For the client exceptions of non-referrals from Outreach Agencies:
In the case that the client is someone who Inn From The Cold knows from our program and the client has expressed a need for Inn-Home Support to us, we will ask the client if they are connected with any other service providers or outreach agencies in Kelowna. If they are connected, then we will contact the outreach agency to be involved. (If the client is not connected, then IFTC will match the client with an Advocate, but may later refer the client to a Service Provider if the need arises.)

Signing up as an Inn-Home Support Advocate

Either during an initial interview or during the Advocate training session, an advocate profile will be filled out in which the volunteer shares his or her skills and areas of interest. The information provided will be entered in a confidential volunteer/advocate database by the Volunteer Coordinator and kept on file. Contact information of the Advocate will also be stored in this database.

The Matching Process of Advocate with Client

The matching process begins when the Outreach Agency or Service Provider contacts the Volunteer Coordinator regarding a client in need of in home support. The Volunteer coordinator will draw upon the volunteer database in order to find a good match.

In many cases, the Volunteer Coordinator will be looking for a pair of Advocates for a client. When a client with matching needs for the given skills or interests of Advocate(s) is found, the Volunteer Coordinator will contact the Advocate(s) and set up a meeting with the client in the presence of the Volunteer Coordinator and the Service Provider who referred the client. This way, in a non-threatening and safe environment everyone can meet each other and determine whether it is a good match or not. If an Advocate feels uncertain about the client that is being matched with them, they can tell the Volunteer Coordinator their concerns in private. Also, the client is given the same privilege where they can tell their service provider if they feel it’s not a good match for them. If this happens, then another matching Advocate will be found by the Volunteer Coordinator.

Role of the Advocate (description of role & responsibilities)

The role of advocates is to support and assist adults, couples and sometimes families who have been referred to the Inn from the Cold – Kelowna Volunteer Coordinator by service providers throughout Kelowna. As Advocates, these volunteers are not to act as counselors or professionals – even if an advocate has a background in professional counselling. For ethical and liability reasons, Advocates will be asked to not perform such services. If a need for a counselor presents itself, the client can be referred to one. Advocates may perform a variety of other services such as:

  • assist with filling out forms
  • send a birthday card
  • help the client to enrol in a class
  • assist with budgeting
  • mediate with a landlord or neighbour
  • write a letter,
  • negotiate a payment plan with a utility
  • meet for coffee,
  • arrange rental assistance
  • deliver a food hamper,
  • support medical requirements (e.g. reminders to take medication)
  • visit, listen, and be a friend…

 

A very important role of the advocates is to be a link from their client back to the service provider. The Inn from the Cold – Kelowna coordinator is the liaison between the outreach worker and the advocate.

As Advocate you would be practicing strong boundaries between yourself and the client. You will be trained to know your role and limits well, and if asked to go beyond that by a client, how to gently but firmly refuse to go beyond your boundaries. As an Advocate, you will also receive training in active listening skills, resources to refer to and other important information on how to make your in home visits a success. If there is ever any question about your duties or roles, you are expected to contact the Volunteer Coordinator to clarify. This could happen especially during the beginning or even after many support visits as a client’s needs may change.

Responsibilities of the Advocate include: after each visit with the client, the Advocate is to record their reports on the online, confidential log. This log will be monitored by both the Service Providers, and the Volunteer Coordinator. Should there be anything urgent that needs follow up from Service Providers, an email flag or cell phone message can be sent directly from the database log to both Service Providers and Volunteer Coordinator. The Advocate will receive training in the training session on how to use this database log properly and appropriately. Once an email flag or cell phone message regarding a client has been sent by the Advocate and received by the Service Provider, it is up to the Service Provider to respond to the client. (If Advocate does not have use of a computer or isn’t computer literate – see procedure in next paragraph).

Database – Confidential Online Log Reports

Advocates, Service Providers and the Volunteer Coordinator will be able to log onto the confidential log reports. These log reports are required in order to have an ongoing overview of when Advocates have provided a visit, how it went, and generally how the client is doing. There is also a place where the Advocate can check off the overall state of the client’s well-being, and if something looks, sounds or feels like the client is not doing as well, ticking off the appropriate section will alert the Service Provider. If the client is in an obvious life threatening emergency, the Advocate is of course asked to call 911 first. It is the Service Provider’s responsibility to check the log reports continuously to be informed of their client’s progress (checking the Advocate’s logs). If the Advocate does not have use of a computer or isn’t computer literate enough to use the online log reporting, they are advised to call the Volunteer Coordinator with their report and the coordinator will enter the report for the Advocate.

Role of the Outreach Workers/Agencies


When a referral and meeting with the client, Advocate and Coordinator, results in a match, the next steps can be taken. Since the Service Provider or Outreach agency is expected to stay in contact with their client after the match has occurred, the outreach worker may need to ask their clients after the first visit from the Advocate, how they feel it went. If there are any concerns from the client, the outreach worker is to call the Volunteer Coordinator to discuss any issues in order to keep communication open. If any information needs to be relayed to the Advocate, it is the Volunteer Coordinator’s job to do so. The Outreach workers are to check the online logs and their email in order to stay up to date on the Advocate’s log entries and their reports on the Service Provider’s clients. If an Advocate is no longer needed, the outreach worker would contact the Volunteer Coordinator who will inform the Advocate to formally cancel the visits. In other words, neither the client nor the Advocate should simply stop seeing either other; the Service Provider and Volunteer Coordinator should be informed and discuss this and then communicate a decision with the involved parties.

Role of the Volunteer Coordinator

As mentioned before, the Inn from the Cold – Kelowna Volunteer Coordinator is the liaison between the outreach worker and the advocate. The client remains the client of the Outreach Agency, and thus it remains the service provider’s responsibility to continue to stay up to date on their progress or needs. The Volunteer Coordinator is responsible for keeping the database of Advocates up to date and current. She will screen Advocates, make sure confidentiality agreements and criminal records checks are received. She will also assist in setting up the meeting between clients, Advocates and Service Providers.

If the needs of the client ever become critical – where it is more than is reasonable for a to expect of a volunteer – the advocate will contact the Service Provider and Volunteer Coordinator so the Service Provider knows to be actively involved in a way that is helpful to the client and/or Advocate.

Liability/Accountability

In order to protect our Volunteers/Advocates, our insurance covers our Volunteers/Advocates who have undergone our training session, signed confidentiality agreements, and done a criminal records check. We are providing all Advocates and Service Providers this Inn Home Support Manual to outline all rules and regulations. We are also asking the Service Providers to remain accountable to their own clients and give us input to ensure the success of this program. In other words, Inn from the Cold does not take over the Service Provider’s responsibility of looking after their clients – it remains their responsibility.

Confidentiality

All information provided on clients will be kept strictly confidential. Advocates are asked to sign a confidentiality agreement form.

Criminal Records Check

After the volunteer has completed the training session, and is still interested in being an Advocate he or she is required to submit a criminal records check. The Advocate will be reimbursed by IFTC for the cost of the records check.

Where does funding come from?

Funding for the year-round Volunteer Coordinator of Inn from the Cold – Kelowna projects has generously been provided through a grant from Service Canada. Other costs will be covered through donations (financial and in-kind), church organizations, additional grants (e.g. Central Okanagan Foundation) and participating service agencies.

 

Questions can be forwarded to info@innfromthecoldkelowna.org.