The ASK Wellness Society would like to acknowledge that our programs and facilities operate on Secwepemcúl'ecw, Nłeʔkepmx Tmíxʷ, and Syilx tmixʷ traditional and unceded territories.
June 1, 2022

Penticton Ambassador Program

If you have noticed individuals in safety vests doing clean-up around the community of Penticton, you have likely witnessed ASK Wellness Society (ASK) Peer Ambassadors hard at work. The ASK Peer Ambassadors are program participants who have lived-experience with homelessness, supporting clean-up efforts in the community.

Impactful community program seeks ongoing funding

If you have noticed individuals in safety vests doing clean-up around the community of Penticton, you have likely witnessed ASK Wellness Society (ASK) Peer Ambassadors hard at work. The ASK Peer Ambassadors are program participants who have lived-experience with homelessness, supporting clean-up efforts in the community.

ASK Wellness Society is a social services agency based in the Interior. ASK currently operates two supportive housing sites within the city, which are facilities designed to provide vulnerable members of the community with safe and affordable housing.  Participants from these supportive housing sites can be hired within ASK’s Peer Ambassador Program, and while not earning a wage, are provided with stipends via gift cards to access food and life necessities. The program, which began operations in August of 2021, is temporarily funded with the financial support of BC Housing. It was developed with the intention of providing individuals with pre-employment skills and personal growth through community clean-up, debris pick-up and safe sharps disposal. 

Keith Girard, Team Lead, has witnessed the positive results of the program first-hand. “I’ve heard from participants about the effects the program has had on their mental health. They’ve been able to budget their money better, they feel good about themselves when out in community, and it also strengthens their trust in others. I’ve directly witnessed participants becoming more open and comfortable sharing their struggles and background as they participate in the program.”  

One program participant has been particularly impacted by the public’s response. They state, “I like the reception we get while out in the community, people waving, smiling, and telling us to keep up the good work.”

Three months after the program was established, ASK Wellness Society and the City of Penticton entered into a partnership to further support the program. 

“The City of Penticton is proud to be able to support ASK Wellness Society and the Peer Ambassador program, which provide an opportunity for individuals to learn new skills, connect to the community and help create a cleaner and safer home for all of us,” says Mayor John Vassilaki. “This is an innovative project that shows how by working together we can make a difference for those in need.” 

In the nine months since the program’s inception, the Ambassadors have cleaned up over 6,000 lbs of garbage and roughly 150 sharps, while employing 40 people who have collectively worked over 1000 hours. With the warmer weather approaching, the program is proving to be valuable to the community. Just recently, the Ambassadors supported the City’s Bylaw team in cleaning up a homeless encampment and continue to respond to calls from the community.

The program’s temporary funding will end in August of 2022. In order to sustain the positive effects seen both within community and on an individual level with program participants, ASK is hoping to identify and receive support from corporate and private donors to assist in keeping the program running.

Article written by 
Andrina Tenisci

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