Have you ever thought about how difficult it would be to apply for government services without reliable access to a computer? Or a support network you could call upon if you ran into issues? Or a permanent address where you could be contacted and a place you could keep pertinent documents? What if you also struggled with mental health issues and had inconsistent access to medication?
That’s where the School of Social Work’s new Community Clinic comes in. The pilot project aims to provide accessible, non-discriminatory assistance to individuals struggling to access or navigate formal systems. The clinic, created by Social Work Professor Jeff Karabanow and Field Placement Coordinator Cyndi Hall, opened at the start of June.
Run by two Social Work master’s graduates, the clinic is open three days a week, providing sustainable case management and counseling services for individuals having difficulty managing their everyday lives and who need some support in advocacy and building stability.
“We wanted to create an environment that was representative of the values and mission of the School of Social Work,” explains Hall. “This idea had floated around for years, but it wasn’t until 2011 that Jeff and I really sat down and talked about what a clinic might look like.”
Dr. Karabanow, whose research focuses on youth homelessness and who is one of the founding members of Out of the Cold Shelter, had seen a gap in service offerings through his work with marginalized communities.
“Easy access to places that can help guide and support people is really lacking,” says Dr. Karabanow. “What has come out in my research is that it’s important for people to have safe spaces and someone who can support you unconditionally.”
Once long-term funding and space are secured, the clinic directors envision the clinic as an intentional learning space for Bachelor and soon Masters of Social Work students.
“We have designed the clinic to augment and strengthen current student placement options,” says Hall. “We are focused on community development and teaching practice skills from a social justice perspective and envision the clinic as a place where students will get this exposure and experience. Our goal is to see all social work undergraduate students have some level of formal interaction with the clinic throughout the course of their degree.”
Supporting clients and community
The clinic held its official launch on June 18, with dozens of community services agencies in attendance along with Health Professions Dean Dr. William Webster and Dal President Richard Florizone.
For now, the clinic is operating out of temporary space on Argyle Street donated by St. Paul’s Anglican Church, and it is funded until mid-fall. While the directors work on securing a long-term location and sustainable funding, the clinic coordinators — MSW graduates Sarah Oulton and Erin Landry — are already working with clients.
For more information on the Clinic, visit the School of Social Work's website.
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