The Art of Being a Life Skills Worker

“If we can keep somebody in the same environment for a week, month, or year, only then can we take care of the other things they need to be supported. Homes First pioneered the Housing First model and it works. Now the data has caught up and governments are supporting this model. Housing First is demonstrably true, it’s not a belief – I see it. It saves lives and saves money.” – Michael Lyster, Life Skills Worker

“My degree is in communications, but I was planning on working in the media with no idea what I would be doing, maybe sports,” laughs Michael Lyster, a life skills worker at Strachan House. Always one to follow his passion and looking for new challenges, Michael found himself steered towards social justice causes in his community. He quickly accumulated a wealth of experience in the nonprofit sector and joined Homes First in 1997. “One of the cool things about this job is that it’s constantly evolving, so I never get bored. Stuff I know now, I had no inkling I would be learning two years ago. So I wonder what I’m going to know two years, even five years, from now. The challenges always change and with that comes more learning.”

Over the 16 years that Michael worked with Homes First, he took on the role of a relief staff, a frontline staff, a community housing worker, a community support worker, and is now a life skills worker.  Much of his day is spent working with community partners on intakes and connecting residents with Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Teams, which provide intensive support services for individuals with serious mental illness and complex needs.  “I meet with our clients and do a lot of case management with outside agencies. You have to know what is going on with each person. It’s not a science, it’s an art. It’s about making the right phone call at the right time.” Thanks to staff like Michael, our residents receive the support they need to stabilize and feel safe while living at Homes First. 

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Homes First Administration Office, 90 Shuter Street, Suite 206, Toronto, ON M5B 2K6
Phone: 416-214-1870 Fax: 416-214-1873

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