Consumer Council is open to anyone enrolled in ShelterCare programs. The group meets monthly and discusses a variety of issues. Consumer Council also encourages community advocates and professionals to speak at its meetings.
When I first became Consumer Council President, several years ago, we were traveling to a different program campus each month for meetings while awaiting readiness of what was then still a warehouse in the Whit. When the main conference room at ShelterCare's Center for Programs and Services became usable, one of our standard agenda items (Life at…) was no longer applicable. We needed a replacement. In response, I instituted a sharing of positivity. My goal was, in part, to share positive feedback and give everyone a reason to smile, but also to infuse the meeting with an overall attitude of positivity. After the formalities of reviewing rules and minutes, we begin each Consumer Council meeting by offering everyone the opportunity to share a personal triumph or positive update.
At our last meeting, one consumer beamed as she told the group she finally got her photo ID, a goal she had been working toward for months with help from her ShelterCare peer support specialist. The room erupted with applause and cheers. It was a nice reminder that the things many people take for granted (like having a valid photo ID) can present significant challenges for those who are struggling with poverty, homelessness, brain injury or mental illness. ShelterCare staff helps its consumers navigate these challenges so they can regain their independence and stability. It was especially poignant for me, because I also recently acquired a valid Oregon ID (my Washington driver's license expired more than eight years ago) with the help of my family.
In January, our guest speaker was Alina Wiant. Alina is a former ShelterCare employee (and was, at one time, my personal Counselor-Advocate) who is now a Licensed Massage Therapist and an instructor at Lane Community College, where her class focuses on "Alternative Bodies," or those who do not fit the "normal" mold, whether due to obesity, anorexia, amputation, etc. Alina, along with one of her colleagues, talked about the benefits of massage, which include reduced anxiety and stress, increased circulation and better sleep. She asked for a show of hands and found that the majority of folks at the meeting had never had a massage. Alina hopes to change that by offering therapeutic massage to ShelterCare clients for low or no cost.
Current Consumer Council projects include working with ShelterCare’s development department to update the Consumer Council brochure. The last update was about five years ago, and many, many things have changed, including: Council officers, policies, and our address (just to name a few!). Along the way, we'll be updating the language to better reflect our mission and goals, as well as our general evolution as an integral part of ShelterCare's administration and future.
I have also had many requests to “bring back the drum circle." I, too, would add my voice to the throng. Drum therapy is an ancient approach that uses rhythm to promote healing and self-expression. Before I was elected president of the Council, my predecessor, Kelley, led a meeting where everyone was provided a drum or instrument, and with some minimal guidance from a guest facilitator, we all “rocked out” so hard we didn't want to stop! It was a blast that went on for upwards of ten minutes, and I’m working to organize another such experience in the near future.
I encourage members of the ShelterCare community to come lend their voices to affect change, encourage hope, increase communication, and help lead our collective programs into a bright, productive future! Also, for anyone (client, staff or community member) who wants to contribute as a featured presenter or activity leader please contact Deb Holloway, our staff liaison and Uhlhorn Program manager.
Thank you so much to all who have participated (including those of you behind the scenes) to help make ShelterCare a vibrant, progressive community where hope happens, and respect is given, not earned!