Policymakers must invest time and resources to upskill the existing peer workforce and expand career pathways for people experiencing homelessness
Defining Peer Workers
Peer workers are commonly known as peer specialists or individuals with lived experience/expertise. They are uniquely qualified individuals whose lives mirror those they served.
Their work is grounded in a place of shared real-world experience beyond the boundaries of clinical theory and application that is taught in a classroom.
Over recent years in the homelessness sector, funding dollars have fostered increased momentum, representing expansion in direct services and supportive housing developments. But leaders are struggling to fill vacancies and upskill the existing workforce, especially the peer workers, who are the backbone of the homelessness sector. CSH's initiative aims to create career pathways for people experiencing homelessness and fill the existing vacancies.
Our Work in Los Angeles
In 2016, CSH launched the Healthcare Employment Advancement Ladder (HEAL), a Peer Specialist program in Los Angeles that creates career pathways for individuals with lived experiences of homelessness.
Our goal was twofold: meet the growing demand for positions such as Peer Community Health Workers (CHWs) and Peer Housing Navigators in Los Angeles County and support individuals exiting homelessness to gain employment.
The Voices of Peer Workers
Carmen Miller’s easy-going, friendly personality instantly makes you want to sit down and chat more. Yet behind the warm smile of the mother of three daughters is a story of resilience, courage, and healing through life’s trials.
Jayden Alexander’s road to gain housing, transportation, and employment has been a turbulent yet inspirational journey. As a child, Jayden began suffering from depression at the age of 10. He would come to discover that his mental health challenges also included ADHD and bipolar disorder.
Robert Diaz has traveled a long, difficult, and dangerous road to get to the point in his life where he finds himself today. His words are thoughtful and honest as he describes the many challenges he has managed to overcome, including a violent gang attack that left him fighting for his life after being stabbed 16 times. Robert is a true survivor.
Thomas "TP" Hearn
Originally from Indianapolis, Thomas “TP” Hearn has considered Los Angeles home for the past 30 years. As a young adult, he served the nation through his service in the Army and Air Force reserves. His military career would later evolve into another endeavor that was extremely different – comedy.
CSH's latest report focuses on our findings from the HEAL initiative and the 2021 symposium. The paper offers policymakers with a framework for supporting peer workforce development.
Learn more about the peer workforce efforts in Los Angeles.