Woods Homes Inglewood Opportunity Hub

Community Support

Partner Spotlight

This month we are highlighting the work of Woods Homes Inglewood Opportunity Hub They serve community members by offering at-risk youth access to on-site counselling, as well as support for crisis situations, employment, housing, accessing government benefits, physical and mental health, addictions, and more. The Calgary Food Bank is grateful to partner with this incredible organization in three different ways Woods Homes provides referrals-in to our Emergency Food Hamper Program, and also distributes food received through the Mobile Hamper and Food Link programs. We had a chance to connect with Jessica Williams, a Youth Employment Counsellor working directly with community members. 

Tell us about your organization

We are a mental health centre that provides treatment and support for children, young people, adults and families with mental health challenges. We are a non-profit organization and have been working with families since 1914.  

Our 600+ staff, foster parents and caregivers provide more than 40 programs and services in Calgary, Lethbridge, Strathmore and Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Cold Lake, and Lac La Biche. We are grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who provide support through their time, energy and resources.   

Wood’s Homes is nationally recognized as a knowledge and training centre. We are accredited by Accreditation Canada which has awarded our organization Exemplary Standing four times in a row! 

    Tell us about your role at your organization

    I have worn many hats over the years of working for Wood’s Homes, and I think my current role has me uniquely positioned when supporting our clients.  My current title is Youth Employment Counsellor, and I am connected to our Linking Employment, Abilities and Development (LEAD) program and our Youth Culinary Arts Program (YCAP).  LEAD is our youth employment support program that provides services such as, resume and cover letter building, mock interviews, job search, financial literacy, school re-engagement, driver’s education and anything else needed to ensure our youth are employment ready and can find employment success.  YCAP is our employment training program that is centred through the culinary arts.  In this program our students learn both the soft skill and hard skills needed to find success in the foods industry.  Our students learn from two Red Seal Chefs while obtaining essential employment certificates like, WHMIS and Food Safe.  My role as the Youth Employment Counsellor allows me to work side-by-side our clients in YCAP while I develop their ability to get hired even further through the LEAD program. 

      Why do you do the work that you do?   

      Both of our LEAD and YCAP programs fall into Wood’s Homes’ street youth services department. I have been working in street youth services for nearly 15 years now, and the passion for this line of work is in my blood. When people ask me what street youth services are, I simply explain that I support youth and young adults dealing with complex mental health, homelessness and housing issues and addiction.  I do what I do because I get it.  I grew up with unstable housing and at one point in adulthood I was pregnant, had a toddler and was homeless.  I also have been clean and sober for nearly 18 years now. My lived experiences serve me well when serving the clients I support daily.  As an employment counsellor for LEAD and YCAP, I get to share my love for work and work life. I am a career-oriented kind of woman, and I love getting youth excited and feeling secure in the workforce.  I am where I am today professionally because of the learning, growth and at times, painful experiences I went through as a youngster trying to establish themselves as a professional.  It brings me joy being that cheerleader and guide on the sidelines as our clients coming out of foster care, homelessness, or hospital and help them get established as young professionals.  

      What does success look like for the people you work with?    

      Success looks differently with each young person I support. For some their success is simply being able to get out of bed that day and meet with me for a cup of coffee and a resume refresh. For others their success is getting accepted into SAIT’s culinary arts program, applying to nursing school, getting a job at the Drop In Centre because they gave that client shelter to stay in.  Sometimes success is being able to make a torn family relationship repair so there is less conflict in the home. Sometimes success is finding the right medication or getting through a dentist appointment that you have been avoiding for years.  At Wood’s Homes and in particular in our street youth services department, success is defined by the client, and we celebrate the small successes just as much (and sometimes even more) as the big successes. 

        What have you learned from your work in communities that you would like other people to know?    

        There is that old saying not to judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.  Well, I have come to learn after nearly 15 years of serving the street youth community that we never judge because we all have very similar lived experiences. What I want for other people to know is that the street entrenched youth we support annually do not need your judgement or misunderstanding of what brought them to a life on the streets.  This is never the chosen choice for our youth, but most often life on the streets is safer than being at home.  Take the time to listen to their stories and why they are dealing with complex mental health, homelessness, unstable housing, and addiction.  Maybe once you hear their stories you will find familiarity when you walk a step or two in their shoes. 

        How do you utilize food received from the Calgary Food Bank? 

        We are so grateful for the Calgary Food Bank and the support you give to our youth.  Almost weekly we need to put in a food bank referral and every other week the Calgary Food Bank donates food to our campus.  This donation ensures our clients have access to nutritious foods, personal hygiene supplies, and more. The bi-weekly food donations to our campus allows us to make holiday meals, host food themed events, and simply feed our clientele every day. 

        For our YCAP students, we like taking a food hamper back to the program and challenging our students with figuring out how many meals and how many people you can feed with one hamper. This exercise really challenges them to critically think about pantry cooking while creating an environment of acceptance that is shame free because there is nothing wrong with needing to access the food bank.  In fact, the Calgary Food Bank helped me when I was pregnant with my second child and homeless with my toddler.  

          Is there anything else that you would like to highlight about your organization?  

          Wood’s Homes Inglewood Opportunity Hub is home to all our street youth services and programs. It is a one-stop-shop for youth to access barrier free services and programs. Not only do we support housing, addiction, and complex mental health issues, but we also support play time for our youth and will take them to field trips like, the Calgary Food Bank, Flying Squirrel, Zoo Lights and more.  Even though we support predominantly young adults, most of these young adults did not get to be kids when growing up and were simply always trying to survive. So, we ensure they get to learn how to be a big kid and take them on field trips every month. 

            How You Can Help

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            In the spirit of reconciliation, the Calgary Food Bank acknowledges that we live, work and play on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.

            Calgary Food Bank

            5000 11 Street SE
            Calgary, AB T2H 2Y5

            FOOD LINK

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            Monday to Friday: 8:00 am – 11:00 am

            Donation Centre, Door 7

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            Friday and Saturday: 8:00 am – 3:00 pm


            Monday to Thursday: 8:15 am – 7:00 pm
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            Friday: 8:30 am – 4:00 pm

            ANNEX LOCATION

            5020 12A Street SE
            Calgary, AB T2G 5K9


            Reception: 403-253-2059


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