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Hear from a Peer Support Professional

The Street's Hope/Voluntad team noticed there was a missing piece to our program that only people with lived experience can fill. Peer Support Professionals (PSP) became the missing piece of the puzzle. We are happy to share with you an interview we did with one of our PSP, Leane Vasquez.

Leane has been with us from the start of the Peer Support Program and has really grown into her position. We asked Leane a couple of questions about her role at Street’s Hope/Voluntad, read them below!

1. What is a peer support professional? Can you describe the training you have gone through?

What it means for me to be a Peer Support Professional is that I'm an expert with lived experiences and I've intentionally attended the necessary training and years of trauma-informed therapy so that I can meet others who are experiencing a walk of struggle with their mental health, trauma experiences, substance use, and sexual violation. I have trained under the Colorado Mental Wellness Network Peer Support Professional program and take full advantage of their continued educational opportunities. I have a wealth of on-the-job experiences with people who have endured trauma and live with a mental health diagnosis with the hopes of rebuilding a life that can sustain their everyday happenings. I attend many Peer webinars and events through The Copeland Center. SH/V is a firm believer in implementing the OVC Human Trafficking trainings which is where I learned all that I know about the trauma-informed care that is necessary for developing and earning the trust of our program participants to promote a sensitive and empathetic line of communication; offering choices and intentional listening. My training is never complete, I learn more and more every day as the structure of these shattered lives compels the team to actively grow and implement progressive resourceful innovation.

2. Describe your role at Street's Hope/Voluntad.

I am a Pioneer! The Peer Role is new to Street's Hope/Voluntad. My work is celebrated and welcomed. I get to meet survivors where they are, use some lived examples as a role model to offer and share an emotional space. I engage in sharing how my role can be purposeful with the team. I am a team player. I provide an outreach Peer relating connection and build rapport with the hopes of earning trust so that the engagement offers great worth to those I serve.

3. How do you help people engage in our services at Street's Hope/Voluntad?

I link, I engage, I support through validation. I share to connect in a relatable way to empower wellness and recovery. I respect, I recognize multiple paths of recovery. I demonstrate and celebrate strengths. I strive to learn about cultural perspectives. I use person-centered language that supports communication. I promote my own growth in hopes to model a path of wellness and recovery. I transport, I make regular outreach calls. I listen. I hear. I encourage engagement in services, internally and externally. I attend.

4. What are things that are most surprising to you that you have encountered with human trafficking survivors?

For me as a Peer with a variety of lived experiences, the surprise is not a surprise. I have learned about cues to look for out in the community and in a home. What is surprising is how the relation of human trafficking cues relates to so many different abuses and addiction and migrates everywhere. Cues like burn marks on a body, cuts, absences from one's life, sexual behaviors/mannerisms, energy, withdrawal, depression, checked out, even bragging, particular tattoos that are branding. Then there are the vulnerabilities, unstable living, experiences with violence, sexual abuse or domestic violence, runaway, immigrant, poverty/BIPOC, substance or alcohol use in the home, and addiction. With the people I work with, I would say that the encounters I've experienced are surprisingly close to my own lived experiences and have helped me view my own trauma with the same tenderness I wish to always give to those I get to serve.

5. What is one impact you have seen as a peer support professional?

The closest to my heart is a story about a trans woman (who as it has been explained to me) was not as engaged in services as she is now. Although she may not be as self-sufficient as she may want or need to be, she attends groups, meets for Peer Services, and is consistent in communication with me. She had found herself in a place of substance use after leaving a job and making a huge living transition from a community shared living to searching for an apartment of her own. One day I asked if she was using drugs. She became defensive in her body language and face using a loud tone to express herself. She stood up from a bench where we sat and gazed down at me as if this was the last straw and who in the heck did I think I was! Immediately I shared that I was a drug addict in recovery and I tried to soften the conversation with my tone and eyes to let her know that there was a physical cue I read on her face that led me to ask the question. I explained how I would use and I have read about when others have used drugs I have/they may tend to pick at their skin out of both the addictive behavior or anxiety from the addiction. When I was able to meet her where she was without judgment and convey to her that I understand, I get it, everything on her body softened and she sat down again. Today she continues to work towards a whole health recovery and she is showing up!

Thank you for learning more about our peer program. You can help us add more peer resources by making a donation today.

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