They are called ECGs. And just like an ECG measures a patient’s heartbeat, Mission’s ECG (Engaged Community Guides) program through Stone Soup and supervised through Mission Community Services Society (MCSS) are out on Mission streets as guides and ambassadors.
All ECGs have had direct experience with homelessness and the many factors that can cause it. The program engages people with lived experience with not only homelessness but addiction, mental illness, entrenched poverty and those at-risk.
Seven people (pictured above receiving their certification) are already ECGs in Mission following their training program. Each of them will be outfitted with maps, supplies, first aid supplies and materials for picking up refuse or for calling in the city for larger messes. This six week pilot program will first focus on the areas of Downtown Mission and Mission Hills.
The program aims to provide the ECG trainees with:
– valuable training which includes transferable prevocational and vocational skills. The training focuses on reliability, professionalism, and customer service.
– a stipended and socially valued role within the community, thereby improving self and social esteem and working to reduce negative stigma.
– offering hope and a gateway to other services, largely because the training takes place in a first stage setting and includes considerable self-examination.
– a credential (in the form of a course certificate) that can be used in work searching later.
– an opportunity to earn funds via altruistic work.
– an opportunity to be seen as a person of high status within the community, including by others who may be emerging from homelessness.
The program aims to provide the community with:
– community ambassadors who can serve the community as a whole, operating as guides and greeters, keeping eyes on the street and alerting neighbourhood agencies to the need for law enforcement, municipal clean-up and outreach.
– helping at-risk people to navigate to services using a relatable and authentic approach.
– keeping the area tidy.
– providing physical assistance and basic first aid as needed.
– giving directions and recommendations to patrons.
– advising on community needs.
Participants took part in a two-week training program. They are referred by local service agencies, based on a profile of readiness and suitability. Participants receive warm weather clothing meant to help them stay warm and dry during shifts (this cohort has two three-hour shifts weekly, always in pairs). They are also given a uniform jacket, name tag and equipped backpack to carry, but these are returned after shifts. ECGs use their own cell phones but will be piloting the use of walking-talkies during the initial run of the program.
The ECGs have policies and red zones that limit their practice, and these were developed in collaboration with them.
“The opportunity involved in a program like the ECGs is very exciting because it’s a terrific example of how Mission is willing to take leadership in solving the program of homelessness,” said MCSS executive director, Sanjay Gulati.
ECGs are there to help everyone, from customers to visitors to people in need of shelter.