Program Launch: Peer-to-Peer Initiative
In May 2022, we launched the Peer-to-Peer Justice Impacted Initiative at our West Harlem and Bronx LGBTQ supportive housing sites.
Developed by chief program officer Kimberly Marshall with representatives from the Credible Messenger Justice Center, the program is a series of workshops to build leadership skills for current and former residents who want to create change for their communities through peer-to-peer outreach.
Participants develop public speaking, interviewing and community organizing skills—useful for future employment and advocacy.
We tailored the program to reflect the communities we serve: homeless young adults, LGBTQ individuals, Black and Brown folks, those affected by mental health and substance use issues, and persons who’ve interacted with the criminal-legal system.
Residents who complete the workshop series receive a stipend—compensation for their leadership, program participation, and community organizing work.
Former resident Shaun Ingram reached out to Mildred Ramirez, program director for Homeward West Harlem, for advice. Mildred mentioned the program and encouraged Shaun to get involved. It would be a great fit for someone with Shaun’s passion and could help in Shaun’s current work at a family shelter.
Everyone was able to say what they needed to say. No judgment. It was like this open forum where everybody didn’t just respond to respond. People were really listening to understand.
The last group we met in person. For me, it was wonderful because a few of the [former residents] were there… it was just nice to see them again. And it was healthy debate.
Everybody was respectful, even when we weren’t necessarily agreeing. Everybody was respectful and disagreeing. And we understood the other person’s perspective.
— former resident Shaun Ingram on the peer-to-peer program
We’ve also expanded our peer-to-peer programs. Residents lead workshops where they share their skills in cooking, hair styling, artmaking and more. We offer modest stipends, so residents are compensated for their care and organizing work. Peer-led workshops increase participation—and foster leadership opportunities.
Next up for the Peer-to-Peer Justice Impacted Initiative? Including young mothers at our Upper West Side site. We’ll make adjustments to the program recognizing young mothers at our family shelter have a shorter length of stay as residents and childcare needs when attending a workshop.