FolkTime Partners with Clackamas County to Provide Peer Support at Emergency Warming Centers


Clackamas County, March 2019: FolkTime, in partnership with the Clackamas County Social Services Department, had the opportunity this past winter season to create a peer support program within the five emergency warming centers throughout the county. Although Clackamas county serves a more rural community overall, they are in great need of solutions for our neighbors experiencing houselessness. In recent years, an influx of houseless people from Portland and surrounding areas has made it necessary for Clackamas County to develop new resources, as their demographics are somewhat different from those of an urban area. Clackamas County approached FolkTime about that need, and together they developed a pilot project to better support the emergency warming centers and their overnight guests. Amanda Maddalone, FolkTime’s Director of Social Programs, hired ten peers, each of whom has lived experience similar to that of the people making use of the warming centers.

FolkTime, which is the Intentional Peer Support training hub for Oregon, certifies all of its peers in Intentional Peer Support, or IPS, a model of peer support emphasizing connection and learning together. The relationships created through IPS support letting go of old ideas, opening our worldview to growth through new understanding.

Clackamas’ Emergency Warming Centers open when the temperature falls to 33o F or below, including when it drops below that level due to wind chill. The centers make determination by noon every day as to whether they will open, sometimes doing so to serve populations affected by other adverse environmental conditions, such as flooding or severe winds. Once the peer support specialists were trained in IPS, they were placed at each of the Clackamas warming center sites to support guests during times of distress. Over the course of the pilot project season, the peer support team ended up supporting both guests and site volunteers by negotiating common power dynamics to create and foster authentic connection between both groups.  Peers often birthed functioning protocols out of chaotic circumstances.  The team brought with them a tremendous amount of valuable life experience, things that could never have been taught in a classroom, opening up new avenues of communication and understanding. The feedback received from the guests, shelter sites, and peers has been entirely positive.

As the season draws to a close, Amanda is excited to review the data and to discuss findings. She is curious how many lives the peers have positively affected during this project. This was the first peer support role for most of these new employees, and Amanda was happy to be able to report that “many of the new team are pursuing peer support employment in other programs in the future. I’m so glad FolkTime could give people the opportunity to try their hand at this amazing work!”