Danica Audette is a Mental Health Facilitator at Youville Centre, which means her role is to help those in the community looking for supports. On any given day, that might mean facilitating a grief group, or community presentations on health, or counselling a client one-on-one. The common thread that runs through all these activities is advocacy, something Audette is particularly passionate about.
“I work with various clients who are facing different types of barriers,” she explains. “I’m here to help them get what they need whether it’s a proper place to live, better medical care, or working with their Employment Income Assistance (EIA) worker because they’re not getting the services they’re entitled to. It’s really important to understand that the systems are the barrier here, not the person trying to navigate them.”
She says that the pandemic exacerbated the need for advocacy support for those she works with. “When everything shut down, many of us were able to find what we needed from government or health services by using our smart phone or a computer,” Audette explains. “If you didn’t have access to either of those tools, and the resource centres you normally accessed were closed due to public health orders, then what happens to you? So many folks were alone.”
Audette also explains that unless you’ve lived it or worked alongside those who do, it’s difficult to understand the challenges that come with navigating social and health supports when you’re struggling in other areas, as well.
“When your focus is finding adequate food for the day, having a place to sleep that night and also trying to get your children to school on time, getting in touch with your EIA worker is the last thing on your mind,” she shares. “Society is telling people to focus on one thing and their workers are saying something else. They don’t know where to start, where to go, or how to get help. It seems like obstacle after obstacle. It’s important to show them that there’s a little bit of something that can be done. There’s hope. It’s wonderful to know that something good can happen for them.”
For Danica, advocacy goes beyond a helping hand; it’s also about building skills. “It’s incredible to see someone become more confident,” she shares with a smile. “When you see them start to believe in their own voice and speak up when they need to be heard, it’s just huge. When they have the appropriate tools to advocate for themselves, you see a light spark up inside them. They feel better about themselves and the future they can have.”
With the variety of work that Audette engages in daily, she’s able to work with clients of all backgrounds. “I value the type of work that we do at Youville and the clients that we have,” she shares. “We work with everyone. We’re inclusive. It’s about meeting people where they’re at and helping them get where they want to be.”
That said, she has a simple hope for the future. “My dream is for everyone to live comfortably,” Audette says. “Where no one has to fight for housing and food, and they’re getting their basic needs met on a daily basis without struggling. We’re all human and we deserve to have our needs met with compassion and care.”