Programming Connection

Community Voice Mail 

Lu’Ma Native Housing Society
Vancouver, BC
2017

Lu’ma Native Housing Society, a Vancouver-based Aboriginal services organization with a medical centre that provides HIV and Hep C treatment, has been running a successful communication program called Community Voice Mail (or CVM for short) for the last seven years. CVM is offered by partnered agencies that work directly with people living with HIV and Hep C – places such as the Positive Living Society and the Pender Clinic. It sets people up with telephone numbers so they can be reached by potential employers, secure housing, schedule medical appointments or connect with friends and family.

Some of the people who use the service are at risk of or are living with HIV and Hep C. More than half of the participants last year identified as homeless and over one-third are Indigenous, some participants having experienced domestic violence, incarceration or the foster care system.

The program started in Vancouver with 500 telephone numbers, but over the years grew to 1,700 numbers. Three years ago, Lu’ma decided to launch this much-needed service in Prince George and Calgary, where there are 500 numbers in use in each city.

There are two people who run CVM in Vancouver and 121 partner agencies all around the Greater Vancouver Regional District – places like community, health, youth or housing centres, where people sign up for the program. Before getting assigned a phone number, clients are asked to meet with caseworkers to set goals. A caseworker can then work with the individual member to help them achieve their personal goals.

Employment is the number-one identified goal, but the service is more than about getting a job. It brings people out of isolation and allows them to be self-sufficient. Moreover, Community Voice Mail fights poverty stigma. “When a client puts the phone number of their shelter or transition house on their résumé or housing application, that potential employer or landlord hangs up when they call with what would have been good news,” says James Foster who is the Program Manager. “Poverty stigma is very real and CVM is the tool to bridge this.”

CVM also broadcasts a fun and helpful community update that is recorded and sent out to all members every week. It informs members of social events, cultural gatherings, free educational opportunities, extreme weather advisories and health alerts allowing people to stay safe and feel connected to their communities.

CVM hopes to launch its program in 2017 at the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre in Winnipeg.

For more information about this program, contact James Foster at 604-876-0811, ext. 341 or visit http://lnhs.ca/community-voice-mail/.