“Something just ‘clicks,’ and they find the determination to change their lives—I connect them with resources that could get them off the street.”
Story by Joanne Neilsen
Work isn’t black and white for Scott Calling Last; it’s grey, complex, and as adventurous as the crime fiction he loves to read and write.
Calling Last is a Street Outreach Worker with Alberta Health Services’ Elbow River Healing Lodge—a primary health care clinic for Aboriginal patients and their families.
“There are many reasons why people end up on the street,” Calling Last explains. “On top of addiction and mental health issues, many have self-defeating behaviours. To do this job well, you have to check your personal beliefs at the door and open your mind.”
Calling Last starts his day by catching up on emails and paperwork, then loads up his backpack. Tucked inside are resource materials, syringe disposal units, and lots of socks.
Rain or shine, he makes his way outside where the real work begins.
“I am a consistent presence on the street working with people I really know,” Calling Last says. “I do what I can do to help them move forward.”
He’s helped clients get dental care, emergency care for a wound, provided crisis counselling, and arranged for life-changing spots in rehab for first-time and repeat clients.
“I’ve seen people come to pivotal moments driven by a crisis,” Calling Last says. “Something just ‘clicks,’ and they find the determination to change their lives—I connect them with resources that could get them off the street.”
Calling Last says preparation is a big part of the job, as he never knows exactly what might come up.
“For example, there’s been a resurgence of syphilis on the street, so I stay informed on the resources available,” he says.
Working for AHS has been a good experience for Calling Last.
“I work with great people, from doctors, nurses, social workers and unit clerks, to the larger downtown community. We’re like family.” he explains. “I also have great benefits and learning opportunities.”
As a single dad, Calling Last makes a point of not bringing work home.
“At the end of the day I let go and accept that I’ve done my best,” he says. “I enjoy being with my son and take time to indulge my passions—photography and writing crime fiction.
“By letting go, I come back to work ready for whatever unfolds, because you never know when someone will have that pivotal, life-changing moment.”
Learn more about the Aboriginal Health Program at Alberta Health Services here.