The John Howard Society is an independent, non-profit, non-government organization that plays a vital role in the criminal justice process. Their mission statement “promotes a safe and peaceful community through effective and humane criminal and social justice programs.” The core values of the society include the right to safe and affordable housing; every person is equal and must be treated with dignity, equity, fairness and compassion before the law. The belief is held that all people have the potential to become responsible citizens.
The John Howard society believes justice is served through measures that impose humane consequences, resolves conflicts, repair harm, and restores peaceful relations in the community. These belief systems are implemented through various independent living programs in the lower mainland.
Hobden House is an independent living program in the Surrey community for men from Federal Institutions and provincial institutions who are on conditional release and for men on day parole. Hobden House promotes essential skills for successful reintegration back into the community. It provides a stable environment fostering skills in the areas of community functioning, employment, substance abuse, and moral support to afford residents an opportunity to become contributing members of society. Hobden House establishes a balanced lifestyle that promotes and develops healthy relationships, which has zero tolerance for violence and drug and/or alcohol use. It is essential that residence workers focus on the individual needs of the clients and develop various supports for them to become self-determined and able to live independently in the community. This includes helping them develop healthy coping strategies, addressing health or mental health concerns, and allowing them the space to transition into the realities of everyday living. Assistance is available in addressing addiction issues, obtaining identification cards, budgeting plans, searching for employment, upgrading education or assisting with program appointments. Providing support in all needed areas significantly influence the overall success of harmonious reintegration into the community.
Skill and abilities I have gained throughout the work term have all been of important value and contributed to my confidence, patience, and developed a greater ability to set boundaries for effective supports in my life including my personal, academic and work spheres. This job has created a deeper and better understanding in how to support healthy reintegration back into the community in ways that assist clients to overcome any barriers they may face in accessing resource services. As a residence worker, I have gained an understanding of the dynamics between the Criminal Justice System and offenders in Canada. It has contributed to my full understanding of service gaps within the community and helps me apply the theoretical frameworks learnt in school to the Criminal Justice field on a ground level within the community. It has allowed me to develop creative and alternative approaches in responding to and understanding each individual in all of their diversity. This helped me implement different strategies to meet the needs of people at Hobden House individually and collectively in order for them to move forward to a healthy lifestyle.
When I began this position, I did not have my enhanced security check, which restricted me from reading the criminal files of each client. Instead, I had to build rapport with clients on their own terms in ways that made them feel comfortable and safe. Having clients share their life situation on their own terms helped build rapport that is meaningful and relevant to their own life story. I also was able to build my administration skills because of these security restrictions, which contributed to enhancing in my multi-tasking skills. I gained the ability to document all significant events in the daily log book, sign off on activity logs, and provide medications to clients on a daily basis. I strengthen my ability to answer calls and monitor check in times for all clients and conduct three house checks per shift to ensure safety and security of the house to confirm that all residents in the house are living and breathing persons. Now that I have my enhanced security check, I can now understand and identify risk factors the clients may face on a daily basis and assist them more efficiently in ways that meet their needs. Strategies that allow me to do this include sitting in with staff on shift change debriefing sessions, providing input in case conferences or in any meetings with agencies or clients.
My Learning Objectives
The ways in which this position fit my learning objectives is that it provided me with further experience working and liaising with outside resource agencies and providing culturally appropriate services to clients. It also gave me the opportunity to share input to clients and staff with knowledge around cultural values, beliefs and customs, which are specific to Native culture in BC. I have only had previous experience in working with clients and serving them from the location of the agency employed. The objectives that were difficult to meet is providing support and services to clients while living in-residence because my past work experiences only allowed me to work with clients in the community. Working with clients who are in the independent living program at Hobden allows me to be creative in the ways I can support them in all their diversity to help them become contributing members to society and strongly connected to all the services that meet their individual needs.
Projects that I have been working on include revamping the Indigenous resource manual so that it can provide a wide range of services in all areas including education, employment, health and wellness, addictions and counseling, and obtaining a status or metis card. Building a better reference for Indigenous resources provides more relevant information of resources for all those that identify as Metis, Indian status and Inuit. Working on this manual has allowed me to expand my knowledge about local resources that are culturally appropriate for clients at Hobden House or within the John Howard Society as a whole. Re-writing and creating a new manual for Hobden House gave me a chance to learn about the wide range of resources that are offered in the lower mainland that fits the needs of our clients on an individual and collective level. Updating all the resources provided me the opportunity to confirm which resources are still available and relevant to the groups of people we serve.
My goals for the future is to complete my work term and remain as a casual residence worker for Hobden House at the John Howard Society throughout the 2015 Fall semester. I will be finishing my Bachelor’s degree with a Major in Criminology and a minor in First Nations Studies. I plan on writing the applying and meeting all the necessary requirements to attend law school by September 2016 somewhere in BC. I plan on becoming a criminal lawyer and going back to the interior of BC to work closer to my community.