Empowering Previously Homeless Individuals and Community Organizations through Participatory Community Assessment

This session introduces Participatory Community Assessment (PCA) as an innovative instrument to cultivate community members as co-leaders in developing relevant, strength-based programming for previously homeless individuals and/or individuals living with mental illness. PCA development derived from an occupational therapy partnership uniquely supporting community engagement to promote health and well-being. The PCA complements existing strengths of its members – particularly individuals with lived experience of homelessness – to elevate capacities and mobilize innate resilience into action.

This presentation will describe strategies for implementing the PCA in community organizations, communicating peer/consumer priorities in policy and advocacy platforms, and promoting peer mentorships and empowerment to build organizational capacity and support mental health. The presentation will be interactive following a didactic piece with small group hands-on practice of methods and brainstorming utility across settings. The session targets a broad audience as PCA principles can be applicable for peers/consumers, organization leadership and frontline staff, and political advocates.

Presenter Bios:

Andrea LeFlore is an occupational therapist in the Chicagoland area and recently graduated with her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She is a Research Specialist at UIC where she supports community-based participatory research, clinical peer mentor projects for people with disabilities, and performance-based assessments for Williams Consent Decree class members. She is the Director of Community Education on the Chicago Street Medicine team and a 2018-2019 Schweitzer Fellow. She contributes to various homeless workgroups including the MacNeal Medical Respite team for the homeless and the Alliance for Health Equity among Chicago Hospitals to address Housing and Health initiatives. Her experience in developing and conducting Participatory Community Assessments involved academic and community partnership formations with permanent supportive housing organizations in Chicago.

Nina Robins has been practicing as an occupational therapist for over 20 years with a specialty in neuro-rehabilitation. She also earned her Ph.D in disability studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her work as a clinician and disability scholar have included community program development for people with disabilities, research and teaching. Her interests include exploring the effectiveness of current healthcare systems in supporting long term community integration for people with disabilities. She currently is working in a teaching hospital located in Chicago and Chicago suburbs in pursuit of this question. She is also partnering with local community organizations to support the integration of occupational therapy services in various settings involving homeless populations.