King’s partners with Sally Ann

  • March 16, 2023

Social work students at King’s University College are putting in-class knowledge to good use at the Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope in London, Ont.

The King’s Community Support Centre, a new partnership between the Catholic college and the charitable organization, will give six students enrolled in the Master of Social Work (MSW) and Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) programs hands-on experience counselling individuals and families living at the Centre of Hope affected by homelessness, suffering from mental health ailments or undergoing substance use recovery.

“We have a working relationship with King’s (College) University. We were hosting about 50 students every year for placements, so we questioned, ‘how can we do something different?’ ” said Jon DeActis, executive director of the Centre of Hope. “We could have a social work clinic so that people could come in whenever and seek counselling.” 

The new partnership, which began in January, sees students at the Salvation Army Centre on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as part of the “practicum” component of their coursework. 

Student Stephanie Fink says the program thus far is succeeding in its ambition of providing free counselling for those who have experienced trauma. 

“Although it’s been a slow start because we need to give our info to those people who need it, the program has been meaningful both for them and us,” said Fink, 24. “From the three MSWs who give counselling, all of us would agree that the program is helpful. We have been able to meet with people in the community and to chat about whatever they need support with, providing a safe space.”   

The undergraduate students are usually tasked with “intakes,” a 15-minute conversation to get the ball rolling, assessing initial interest to schedule a formal, sit-down counselling session down the line. The master students are the ones who provide counselling. 

Erin Michalski, 27, completed her undergraduate studies in health science and psychology at Western University, then went on to pursue a postgraduate degree in addiction and mental health at Algonquin College. A current MSW program participant, she says the program has coloured her relationship with those around her. 

“It allows me to foster connections in a very literal sense by bridging gaps, decreasing barriers and connecting people from different populations,” said Michalski. “The program has given me connection and hope for the future, shaping my solidarity with people of all walks of life and of all backgrounds.”

There are hopes to expand consulting services to nearby shelters and other agencies like the Men’s Mission in London.  

“We want to provide this service for free. We want to lower any barriers that may be present in other environments,” said Fink. 

Michalski says that serving others drives her commitment to social work. 

“I enjoy having the opportunity to listen to others and hear their stories to fully understand why people are the way they are. I see it as a great privilege to be able to interact with people and hopefully help in some way.”

“The environment at the Salvation Army cultivates that sense of supporting each other in solidarity, whether or not we subscribe to a particular faith. It has increased my sense of interconnectedness and faith in other people,” said Fink, who majored in psychology at the University of Waterloo. “There is this idea of radical hospitality, inviting anyone no matter where they are in life. It makes me appreciate the sense of interconnectedness that is possible with other people.”

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