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Meet Mila Alexova, Coordinator of Outreach Services

14 April 2024

Through initiatives like Café Mission and the mobile clinic, Mila and her team are making a difference in the lives of people experiencing homelessness. She tells us about her inspiring journey in community work, and how outreach fosters social reaffiliation and facilitates the transition to stable housing.

Hi Mila, could you tell us about what you do at the Old Brewery Mission?

My name is Mila and I coordinate the Mission’s outreach services: the Café Mission drop-in centre, the shuttle service, the mobile clinic and 24/7 services. I also oversee projects for these services, as well as liaison and work with partners.

Have you been involved in community work for a long time?

Yes, I’ve always been interested in psychosocial support work. I’ve worked in lots of different settings: the correctional system, the private sector, the healthcare system, schools for children suffering from psychopathic disorders. I worked for five years in that environment, and after that at a women’s shelter. I’ve also worked for community organizations, but more in a management role.

Why did you to want to work with people experiencing homelessness?

Well, I’ve always worked with the marginalized–in the correctional system, halfway houses, daycare centres. I’ve worked in crisis management, in preventing and intervening during disruptive and dangerous behaviour. It’s something I’ve done my whole career. Just before landing my current job at the Old Brewery Mission, I worked in the Montreal General Hospital’s sexual assault unit.

It was actually the pandemic that brought me to the Old Brewery Mission. I wanted to roll up my sleeves and also do something different. I saw some attractive jobs at the Mission, some really interesting projects, so I applied. I’ve been here three years now.

Coming back to outreach services, I’m really interested in reaffiliation and reaching people experiencing homeless in public spaces. This has been our focus in recent years and it’s really starting to come together.

How do Café Mission and the mobile clinic benefit people experiencing homelessness?

We have all kinds of services in Montreal. The problem is that to access them, people have to go to some office between the hours of 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. At the Old Brewery Mission, we go out into the community and are available 24/7.

It’s all about going to the person rather than expecting them to come to us. The goal of outreach is to make sure the person doesn’t have to go through an emergency shelter to get access to stable housing. So we have a mobile team that will do the paperwork from an encampment, park, metro station. Getting people directly from the street into housing is the ultimate goal.

So for example, Nicholas, one of our psychosocial counsellors, doesn’t work in an office. He goes out in our mobile clinic to public spaces, where he helps people fill in all the necessary forms. It complements the services of other organizations and really fosters reaffiliation for people experiencing homelessness.

Finally, could you share a success story that motivates you to keep going?

There are so many, where do I start?! Take our pilot projects, like the mobile clinic. I’ve seen people go directly from living in an encampment to housing with psychosocial support. The clinic has teams lined up to work 24/7.

What I consider a success story is probably not what most people would. Success is when I see someone who has always lived on the streets come in after chatting over a coffee during my break and say “I want to sign up for a program.” That really motivates me and lifts my spirits.

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