The Bond Between Students and Tenants

In the 3 years that I have worked for SHOW, starting out as part of the relief staff rotation while completing school, to full-time Tenant Support Coordinator to, most recently, Donor Engagement Coordinator, I have seen many students come through our doors from various post-secondary institutions throughout our Region, some stay with us as relief staff while some have even moved on to become full-time Tenant Support Coordinators. Some join SHOW knowing exactly the career path they wish to follow and others come to us not knowing where they want to go but knowing they want to work in the human services field.

One thing I notice every time new students come, and it doesn’t matter the school they come from or the field they are studying, I always notice how the tenants are instantly drawn to the students. They are always intrigued by these newcomers and want to know all they can about them, they’re instantly friendly and almost always willing to engage in easy conversation. This is different than when a new staff starts, I won’t begin to try and understand the why behind the perceived differences that tenants display with staff and students, but believe me when I tell you it’s there.

This year was no different. Ema joined us for her placement through Conestoga College in October and stayed on for her Co-op right through the summer and Andrea also came to us through Conestoga College for her summer Co-op. Both are completing their Bachelor of Community and Criminal Justice.

Tenants coming into the office want introductions to the new students, they have questions, which they ask with abandon, not being worried whether they’re appropriate or politically correct – they just ask what they want to know. And Ema and Andrea were like all the others before them, they answered the questions, even the awkward ones where they were able to flex their newfound knowledge on boundaries and personal disclosure.

Relationships were formed through art activities, Bingo, movie nights, BBQs, and snacks. To some, these relationships may not mean all that much, but to those of us who have witnessed our tenants at their worst, this is when we get to see them at their best. This is when we see them yell BINGO as if they’d won thousands of dollars and not just a selection of Dollar Store prizes, this is when we get to see them concentrate on creating something beautiful rather than thinking of their past traumas and hurts, this is when we get to see them forget all their worries and laugh at abandon during a Disney movie, and when we get to see them sit down as a group and forget all their neighbor disputes to eat a family meal. These are the moments that make all the other moments worth it.

Having students to fulfill the time commitment that these activities require is only one part of what makes them happen. Gifts from our supporters allow students the ability to purchase prizes for BINGO games, craft supplies for various activities, and purchase groceries and snacks for meals and other get-togethers. Without students and our supporters, staff would never have the resources needed to offer such opportunities to our tenants.

Which is why no matter the school and no matter the chosen field of study SHOW always welcomes the opportunity to invite students in to work with, support, and engage with our tenants. It is clear that the benefit of having them at SHOW is immeasurable. They offer companionship, undivided attention, a listening ear, and a safe space to those that unfortunately are not offered that as freely as many of us are.

As Ema and Andrea’s time as students draw to a close I can see that they have also benefitted from the relationships that they have created. They have witnessed firsthand the humans behind the education they are receiving, they’ve gotten to see the humanity behind substance use and mental health, they’ve brought joy to others through simple acts of service, and they’ve seen how non-profits operate on shoestring budgets while attempting to meet the needs of the individuals they serve. I am very proud of the work that they both did while at SHOW and I will miss working with them on a daily basis as they head back to school in September. I hope neither of them ever forget what a gift they have been to the tenants and that they remember that giving a little can lead to something bigger than they ever thought.