As an ethnographer in Scotland, Chris Medland worked alongside volunteers of faith-based organizations to understand the impact they were having on the wider community. “The effect they were having was immense,” he found. “These organizations were doing almost all of the social welfare provision in Scotland”. With over 5% of the Scottish population experiencing homelessness at that time, this was a major undertaking.
When Chris originally relocated to Scotland from Canada, he was fully committed to academic life. However, over his time spent working with charities, he felt drawn to pursue employment working directly with those in need. “I came out of my research with a higher calling–this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Instead of writing papers about it, I’d rather be in the trenches with people trying to make a difference in the kingdom of God while we have a chance to do so,” he explains.
After his return to Canada, Chris began working with Mission Services of London as part of the intake team at Men’s Mission. Soon after, he transitioned to Community Mental Health Programs (CMHP) where he worked with the Resource Centre and Streetscape. Most recently, in January 2022, Chris accepted the position of Program Supervisor with CMHP.
“For me, it feels like a vocation,” Chris states while reflecting on his new role with Mission Services of London. He is particularly fond of the teamwork displayed not only at CMHP, but between all branches of service and with community partners. “When you’re working with a charity like Mission Services, it has to be a collective effort… We know we’re part of a broader tapestry of social services that we work with all of the time, and that’s how we navigate the system the best we can for our clients”. He believes this collaboration is made to be especially robust as team members bring their own unique backgrounds and distinct approaches to caring for people in need.
With CMHP recently becoming a multi-site branch, Chris has also been enjoying getting to know colleagues from outside of his immediate team. “Now I know people at every branch and we’re working together,” he says. He has also noticed that becoming multi-sited has enabled greater integration of support for neighbours in need. “I’m happy to see us serving the client base of Mission Services as a whole, and not just as CMHP. We need to find that holistic approach and be a united front in alleviating poverty and addiction. We can do that through greater integration”.
In addition to the branches of Mission Services of London, the CMHP team can also be found throughout the city of London, reaching out far and wide to neighbours in need. “We are mobile and in the community every single day to serve people who are experiencing crisis – whether that’s mental health crisis, addiction related, poverty, concurrent disorders,” Chris explains.
As a client-centred service, CMHP aims to help each client meet their self-identified goals, whatever those may be. “We don’t do things for people, we do things with people. It’s a form of accompaniment. We are there with them to help them achieve empowerment and an environment of choice,” says Chris. “We aim to give them the tools to fully realize their place in community, hence Community Mental Health Programs. Empowering people to take steps as individuals and families goes a long way. We walk beside them during that, not in front of them”.
Chris finds motivation in the belief that every person is made in the image of God. “That is something I hear talked about at Mission Services, and it’s something very important to me because what motivates me to serve people the best I can is doing just that. Even when you’re helping in crisis intervention and you’re seeing people at their worst moment, that person is reflective of the image of God and it’s not an option to offer them hope–it’s an obligation,” he states. “That’s how I feel”.
The Streetscape crisis phone line is answered Monday to Friday from 8 am to 4 pm.