Do you believe that the poor health outcomes often experienced by marginalized communities are unfair and unjust?  Do you want to guide healthcare transformation to better support our community’s most vulnerable members? If so, we have the opportunity that you are looking for.

This summer, a pilot project will be established in Welland and Niagara Falls to enhance the services available in Emergency Departments for individuals who are homeless or under-housed.

The idea for this project came about in 2016 when the Health and Equity through Advocacy, Research and Theatre (HEART) project brought together individuals who identified as homeless or under-housed with health and social service leaders from across Niagara. The goal was to collectively identify ways to improve our healthcare system to better suit the unique needs and barriers of this vulnerable population.

The outcome was 8 policy recommendations developed collaboratively by the group. All 8 recommendations and a thorough analysis of each policy is available in the report Healthcare First.

We are thrilled to announce that one of the main recommendations, “[A]llow for dedicated triaging space in the ER that will offer wrap-around services for patients with mental health concerns… [including] offering peer support”, is coming to fruition. Beginning this summer, the pilot project will leverage Peer Support Workers with lived experience of homelessness to provide wraparound services to people experiencing homelessness who present to Welland and Niagara Falls Emergency Departments. The services provided by Peer Support Workers may range from a supportive relationship and advocating on behalf of the individual, to health and social system navigation and accompaniment. This will not only improve the care experienced and services accessed by individuals experiencing homelessness, but will likely also lead to better physical, mental and social wellbeing.

By demonstrating the effectiveness of this model and generating evidence-based, best practice guidelines for the implementation of Peer Support Workers in the Emergency Department over the next 2 years, we hope to be able to extend this pilot project beyond Welland and Niagara Falls.

Call to Action

This transformational work requires the leadership and commitment of champions from across Niagara.

The HEART Project is developing a Steering Committee to guide the implementation of the pilot project. We are seeking up to 12 members to participate in monthly meetings beginning in April, 2019, over a period of approximately 2 years. Additional meetings may be required based on project timeline or sub-committee work.

Efforts will be made to have representation from a wide range of service sectors and stakeholders across Niagara, including people with lived experience of homelessness.

For more information about what this opportunity would entail, please review the Steering Committee’s Terms of Reference.

To express your interest in this opportunity, please contact by March 25th, 2019.

In this correspondence, please address the following criteria (200 words or less for each item):

  • Your experience working collaboratively with people with lived experience of homelessness.
  • Your experience with leading or providing guidance on a project through planning, implementation and evaluation stages.
  • Your ability to commit to attending and actively participating in monthly meetings.


Erin Walters
Health Equity Task Group Lead, Niagara Poverty Reduction Network


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