Working in an SRO as a Peer Specialist
Working in an SRO was not my first choice of work almost two years ago when my former program director, Serge, came across my LinkedIn profile. Serge almost urgently wanted to meet with me, the person behind the profile. It was a hot summer day when I helped my friend from college move out of her apartment in a U-Haul. It was sadly my friend Juwairia who told me to send my resume to Serge and the rest is history.
On my first day, I was greeted outside of the building where I would be working by one of the tenants who was also a peer. I remembered trying to shake her hand and she gave me a look like “do not try it.” So, I became open to giving her a fist-bump instead. I spoke with her and she told me “good luck.” And I was going to need it.
I was eager to get to work and start relating to my clients through all things I had learned in my peer certification classes. I had to think back to what Bill Gamble, one of my trainers, said—that listening will get you further than just looking at their history. That was the attitude I had going into this job though reading charts about the clients was a part of the agency process.
Being a peer specialist at an SRO is different because you must see the client as a person who has the desire to dream and not be treated as someone in a psychosocial state. I must respect them.
I bring activism into my job when I feel my clients are not getting a fair deal when it comes to housing benefits, healthcare and entitlements. Being a patient myself, I see how providers treat my clients and it’s up to me to protect them as best I can.
Lastly, a peer specialist in an SRO is not seen like any other staff member in the building because a little part of your life goes with each of your case load. Fight for your client. Learn from them how they want you to proceed with their issues.