Support and Connection

March 16, 2022

Harm Reduction programme team leader, Evan, at DCM Wellington.

With his background and training in AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs), Evan leads DCM’s Harm Reduction programme, Te Awatea. He also supports people with long histories of homelessness to access a home and to go on to thrive in their lives, as part of DCM’s Aro Mai Housing First team. Evan shared a little of his own story, and explained why he loves being part of this work at DCM.

From the time I was a young child, members of my family have had serious addictions. I grew up in that world. I have had many struggles myself – with addictions and my mental health. About 10 years ago I came out of rehab. I was honest and I acknowledged that I had issues I needed to deal with.

I was asked to go and speak at a hui focused on rehabilitation, involving ten judges. My support worker at the rehab centre suggested I would be a great person to speak to them all. One of the judges really encouraged me to consider studies in AOD, and offered to pay my tuition fees even.

Once I was out of jail, I began with a six month foundation course at Weltec, and then went on to the degree course. Throughout the three years of my degree, I worked at a rehab centre as a support worker.

It was Carol Devlin, who had been my support worker 10 years earlier, who told me about the role at DCM and encouraged me to apply. And my learning has continued here, it has been amazing. I didn’t even know about harm reduction and harm minimisation when I came to DCM. It is definitely the way to go.

I came in to work for a few days each week, and now I am a full time kaimahi at DCM. My mahi involves everything from running our Te Awatea Harm Reduction drug and alcohol programme through to housing people.

I love DCM. I love the team – so many characters, so much fun. I love the support I get, from my fellow kaimahi, from everyone at DCM. I love the wins – seeing someone in a home, something they may never have had or experienced. Seeing the look on their face. They cannot believe that this is their place!

Evan with Peter, a man he has supported in to a home of his own.

I love the way we are doing AOD at DCM. It’s harm reduction, but it’s more than that. We make it as easy as possible for the most marginalised people, those with complex unmet needs, to connect with us in this space. There are no referrals. We don’t want people coming to Te Awatea because they have been told they must. Taumai can come and go as they please; they can come late, leave early – they are always welcome.

I share with them about my issues. I am on their level, I am alongside them. We do this together. I begin to build a good relationship with them, to connect to them.

The group really support one another. It is beautiful. They are non-judgmental. Last week one man said “My house is such a mess.” Another taumai offered “Do you want me to come and help clean it up?” They don’t know each other; this is another guy going through some hard-core, heavy stuff himself. Yet still he offers to support a man he has only met recently.

I love that we have found ways to keep our AOD programme going through everything that COVID has thrown at us, and continues to throw at us. These people need it! We have found ways to stay safe and yet keep these taumai, people with very significant addictions and challenges in their lives, going forward, feeling supported and connected.

And I love that there is always plenty of laughter – because, like me, the taumai who attend just love it too!

What would I say to someone thinking about joining me on the team here at DCM? If you want to experience something in life that you have never experienced before, this is for you. The learnings are incredible. You will be at the forefront of this sector and mahi. Every day is different – and this mahi is so fulfilling!"

Words and images supplied by DCM.

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