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Housing liaison worker aims to help people achieve success

Jennifer Westwood is the new housing liaison worker for the Fort Macleod Housing Committee.

Fort Macleod’s new housing liaison worker brings a wealth of experience to the position.
Jennifer Westwood has a degree from the University of Lethbridge and has worked with several social service agencies in southern Alberta.
“Personal experiences in my life lead me to this line of work.” Westwood said. “I have always been the kind of person who enjoys helping others.”
Westwood joined the staff earlier this year after spending six years with McMan Youth, Family and Community Services in Lethbridge as outreach worker for both Housing First and Mobile Addictions.
“As a Housing First outreach worker I worked with the homeless population and helped them gain housing and build wrap-around supports,” Westwood explained. “In both roles at McMan I supported vulnerable individuals from a harm reduction approach and met them where they are at, meaning that I had no bias towards the situation they were in.”
“I would always tell my participants that I was not in their lives to tell them what they should do or how to do it. Rather I was a team member of theirs helping them to succeed in their lives no matter what path they took.”
Prior to joining McMan, Westwood worked with the Southern Alberta Self Help Association in Lethbridge and the Foothills Centre in Fort Macleod.
Westwood said she was likely directed to the support services field by her mother’s early influence.
“My mom has been my biggest role model,” Westwood said. “She raised us to be kind and loving. She would always say, ‘Treat people how you want to be treated.’ She is the type of person who would give her shirt off her back to help someone out.”
Westwood attended the University of Lethbridge to earn a Bachelor of Health with an addiction counsellor degree.
Westwood and her husband had moved to Fort Macleod just over a year ago and was interested in a job closer to home.
When a friend told Westwood Fort Macleod Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) was looking for a housing liaison worker, she quickly applied.
The Fort Macleod Housing and Community Connects Project was created with goals of preventing people from becoming homeless, and reducing housing instability for families, individuals and young people in the region.
Westwood’s duties in Fort Macleod include:

  • • Connecting people with services and serving as their advocate to reduce barriers they may encounter.
  • • Co-ordinating client services to support families and individuals who are marginalized, in unstable housing, and to help people who are homeless find and maintain appropriate housing.
  • • Refer people to service agencies such as Alberta Works, Training Inc. and the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped Program, and to addiction and mental health supports.
  • • Establish connections to meet the needs of community members.
  • • Build and maintain positive relationships with landlords.
  • • Hold community workshops based on client and community needs.

The Fort Macleod Housing Committee determined a housing liaison worker is essential to help people deal with housing instability.
“There is lots of information available as to how housing instability and homelessness impacts the individual and the community,” Westwood said. “Having a dedicated housing liaison worker working towards helping individuals, connecting with service providers and seeking strategies for positive community change benefits everyone in the community, especially the most vulnerable.”
Westwood is hopeful Fort Macleod residents will be open-minded to the idea of social inclusion and focus on the process of improving the terms on which individuals and groups take part in society.
“Social inclusion is an important determinant of health,” Westwood explained. “Without inclusion, people are more likely to experience poor physical and mental health, loneliness, isolation, and poor self-esteem, which all can lead to housing instability or homelessness.”
Westwood hopes to educate Fort Macleod about aspects of the housing continuum, including shelters, transitional housing, social housing, affordable rentals and affordable home ownership.
“Ideally, there should be options available for all people along the entire housing continuum in every community. Fort Macleod has gaps in the continuum such as no family social housing.”
Westwood has discovered there are few available rentals in Fort Macleod, so that is something that could be addressed.
People are invited to contact Jennifer Westwood at 403-553-4491, extension 6015.
Once the social distancing rules surrounding the pandemic are eased, Westwood plans on hosting workshops based on identified needs.
“The biggest reward is when I can guide individuals in achieving even small successes in their lives.”

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