June 22nd, 2024

Community organizations focused on engaging with vulnerable persons

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on October 28, 2022.

Herald photo by Ry Clarke Shaundra Bruvall, from Alpha House, talks about how to engage with the vulnerable people in the city.

The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce in partnership from the City of Lethbridge and Downtown Lethbridge BRZ held the first of four of its Safety Education and Information Sessions Tuesday at CASA.

The sessions, titled the Engaging Vulnerable Persons Training Workshop, was geared towards how people interact with those at risk in our city and how showing compassion goes a long way.

Presenter Shaundra Bruvall, communications and community engagement for Alpha House, spoke towards compassion over confrontation, saying the perceptions we have can alter how we interact with the homeless population, and there is a need to be able to understand their perspective as well.

“When we are going to interact with somebody, we want to be able to assess the situation. Distance allows us to see their reaction to us and make a different assessment as the situation evolves,” said Bruvall. “We want to approach these situations as a ‘Hey, how are things going?’ as opposed to who shouldn’t be here. Once confrontational, it is going to result in escalation.”

She noted there is a need for compassion, but also un-biased compassion.

“We have more natural compassion for somebody that we think is a victim of their circumstance, rather than somebody who we think is in that situation as a result of their own choices,” said Bruvall. “You don’t know anyone’s story. To assess it and assign certain levels of compassion to somebody based on your perception of their life is really unfair.”

Towards interactions, the seminar highlighted a response to a verbal resolution model. When interacting with a person in a certain emotional state the response we give helps how the situation will play out. For anxiety, support is key. Defensiveness seeks directions and directive responses. Intimidation causes disengagement, while emotional response looks for relationships and understanding.

While all situations caution a level of safety and distance, Bruvall stresses a need to have boundaries.

“Validating feelings, but also reinforcing boundaries for yourself,” said Bruvall. “You don’t want to get pulled into a role that you cannot play, or don’t want to play.”

As the first of four seminars, the next meeting will be held on November 8 at noon at CASA, focusing on understanding the drug crisis.

“We are hoping to have four between now and Christmas. Then a robust and regularly scheduled event every single month next year,” said Sarah Amies, community director for Downtown BRZ. “It is important because without knowledge breeds disinformation. With real information we can get to the bottom of a situation with common sense and understanding as to why this situation might have arisen. These folks share society, they share our community. They have every right to be here. And more understanding and empathy on both sides may lessen the resentments there are at this moment.”

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