Caring for the Vulnerable
Frontline worker in the community shares his observations during the pandemic.
COVID-19 has affected everyone in the community in one way or another. People who are part of vulnerable populations have been especially at risk. No one knows this better than Blake Jackman. Blake has been an Independent Living Support Worker at Ambrose Place, which provides supportive housing to Indigenous people, since July of 2020. He was recently promoted to a Housing Support Worker.
Blake has watched as people isolate on their deathbed, alone and unable to have family at their side. “We are dealing with traumatized people and we are collectively sharing a new trauma,” he says. “Globally we are struggling, but the impact on our inner city and vulnerable populations is heartbreaking.”
Blake spends his days attending to the needs and well-being of residents at Ambrose Place in a variety of ways. “We work on budgeting, wellness plans, and connecting families. We work one-on-one with Elders and addictions counsellors. It involves morning smudge, pipe ceremony, and on-the-land teachings. No day is ever the same, but you show up ready for anything because doing this work prioritizes healing.”
Blake spent much of his professional life in renovations before moving on to work in the non-profit sector. Prior to Ambrose Place, he was the wellness manager at another permanent supportive housing facility. “Being a part of an organization that is revitalizing Indigenous ceremony, language, and tradition is a joy. I have been lucky enough to be a part of a housing team at Ambrose that has taken people off the streets in just enough time to address major medical concerns that are life-threatening, and we provide support, help and give them comfort,” says Blake, who is a settler on Treaty 6 territory and has lived experience with addictions and homelessness.
Music is another source of joy for Blake. He met McCauley resident and musician Ann Vriend through Ambrose Place, where she involved community members in an upcoming music video. Since then, Blake has become a regular at Ann’s porch concerts. “She reminds us that music is wellness, and we can enjoy our passions safely in COVID times,” Blake says.
His philosophy is that the pandemic is bringing people together through a common experience. “We are collectively coming face to face with our own fears, loves, regrets, and desires. We are all realizing that the same things matter to each of us. No matter who we are based on wealth, race, or merit, we are all susceptible to the outcomes of the planet.”