Alberta Addicts Who Educate and Advocate Responsibly
WHAT WE DO:
Local group meetings take place across the province every two weeks in each of the cities. We also get together as a provincial group twice a year.
GETTING A VOICE
Local meetings help us to come together and form one collective voice, enabling our message to be stronger and reach a larger audience.
In each city, we actively engage and get involved in local projects, community clean ups, community consultations and through this we promote the group.
The core message of AAWEAR is becoming or staying healthy. We work entirely within a harm reduction model and encourage healthy and safe practices both within the group and when advocating to the wider community.
Through local meetings and gaining a collective voice, AAWEAR inspires leadership roles and provides opportunities for members to become ambassadors in their community.
The group takes action on community and wider issues that affect our population of people who use drugs. We do this through educating others on the issues we face, talking about stigma and discrimination and sending responses to the media when there are articles surrounding drug use, drug prohibition, HIV and Hepatitis C
The Peer Model
"Nothing about us without us"
DISCUSS ISSUES AND CONCERNS
We discuss concerns both at the local and provincial level and communicate with each other across the province about current or emerging issues around access to healthcare, supports, life on the street and drug awareness. Members get together and discuss how AAWEAR can help address these issues.
HOLD WORKSHOPS TO IMPROVE OUR SKILLS IN EDUCATION AND PUBLIC SPEAKING
As a key role of AAWEAR is to advocate for ourselves, our peers and also to educate our peers and the wider community, it is important that we are able to do so in an informed and professional way. AAWEAR holds workshops and training throughout the year for members to gain skills in these key areas.
ADVOCATE FOR IMPROVED HEALTH
AAWEAR promotes healthier living and lifestyles to our peers, encouraging them to make healthier choices and provide a range of supplies in order to help people do this. Also access to healthcare for people who use drugs is often lacking and as such, people who use drugs generally have poorer health outcomes. Due to the stigma around drug use, many of our population would rather not seek health care and as such suffer from poorer health. AAWEAR seeks to address this by doing presentations to health professionals and students entering the field.
PRESENT TO COMMUNITY GROUPS, CONFERENCES AND PROVIDE EDUCATION TO OUR PEERS
AAWEAR has given presentations to local not-for-profits, university and college students, and harm reduction conferences across the province. We also give presentations to clients of other agencies to increase and build community awareness of the group and provide education.
"Peer Outreach is really about building relationships. There are many people we see frequently and we want them to feel safe when we approach them"
Our Peer Outreach team provide street level outreach for those dealing with substance use issues in the downtown areas of Edmonton and Calgary. They offer support to their peers, provide information on safer drug practices and link people with a broad range of community services across the cities. Through agency partnerships we seek to remove barriers for our population and build relationships of trust. Our Peer Outreach workers are out twice a week handing out supplies to individuals living on the street. We are closely connected with Safeworks in Calgary and StreetWorks in Edmonton.
Successes and Stats
The following provides a snapshot of the work our Peer Outreach workers accomplish. Since inception, our workers have continued to improve their own learning, enabling them to better educate their peers. In both cities they continue to reach more and more contacts each month and develop new partnerships with client serving organizations.
Through evaluation of the project, we have found that our strength is being able to engage with people who no other service is able - a result of the effectiveness of the peer model.
AAWEAR currently has Peer Outreach running in Calgary and Edmonton. Peers from both cities go out onto the streets and provide outreach support, supplies and referrals to people living on the streets. Using our peer networks, AAWEAR has been fantastic in accessing hard to engage with individuals and linking them up with services and supports.
“Alberta has a blend of poverty and wealth. It’s important to see one another as people without being labelled by our differences”