PSHS (Peel Shelter and Housing Services) Launches New Peer Support team – P.A.C.E. in Peel

by Ontario Central East
Categories: Divisional News

By: Anneliesa McLean


What do you do when critical incident stress impacts employees? This question became the new reality for the Peel Shelter and Housing Services (PSHS), a consequence of the current opioid epidemic. On a regular basis, shelter staff are exposed to traumatic events such as overdoses, deaths, and physical violence. The experience of a traumatic event can leave a lasting negative effect on the physical and emotional well-being of an employee.

“The opioid epidemic has created a crisis in our shelter system,” explains LaRee Walters-Boadway, Director of Programs. On top of their regular duties, shelter staff are often responding to an overdose by administering naloxone, giving chest compressions and rescue breaths. Constantly being exposed to threatened or actual death can take a toll on one’s mental and emotional well-being. The crisis has led to the creation of a dynamic team called the Peers Aiding in Critical Experiences (P.A.C.E.) team in Peel. “The support offered by the P.A.C.E. team is one of a myriad of responses offered to support our staff after a critical incident of this nature” says Walters-Boadway.

In June 2019, the newly assembled P.A.C.E. team was officially launched, to provide support for shelter workers coping with critical incident stress. On average, 80% of individuals exposed to a critical incident will experience a reaction, which can lead to critical incident stress. What is critical incident stress? Critical incident stress is the normal reactions of workers who experience or witness an abnormal, shocking critical incident or traumatic event. These types of reactions can potentially impact the ability of shelter staff to function during and or even after a traumatic event.

“The P.A.C.E team is dedicated to promoting health, resiliency and hope to our peers, after experiencing a critical incident”, explains Tanisha Bryan, Outreach Housing Support Worker. We are not limited to only providing support for crisis experienced within the workplace, but for personal situations as well. We understand and acknowledge that personal crisis can also affect one’s daily tasks, so our focus is to let our peers know that we care about their overall well-being, and that they are not alone.”

The team was modelled after the First Responder Critical Incident Stress Management system, which is based on the empowerment of peers towards health and well-being through communication, education and one on one peer support. The Durham Regional Police and the Peel Regional Police provided support and consultation during the development stage.

A key partner in the support services is the Chaplaincy support. The Chaplains play a vital role before, during, after or as needed in support of the responsive care model. “Our chaplains are a foundational component of our Critical Incident Stress Management Team. They are often the first on the scene after a critical incident,” Walters-Boadway explains. “In addition to spiritual care, their constant and unwavering presence and ongoing follow up helps to give staff the strength, hope and courage to carry on with this important work.”