This April, Shanell Twan Core Team Supervisor at Streetworks, will celebrate her 10th anniversary of employment at Boyle Street Community Services. But her story and relationship with the organization began well before that. Shanell’s first visit to Boyle Street was at the age of two when her mother arrived in Edmonton and began accessing services. “We came here as a family when we first came to Edmonton. My Mom needed help and a friend told her about a place downtown that helps people. Even then people knew to go to Boyle Street Community Services if they needed support.”
Throughout Shanell’s life Boyle Street was a constant and consistent presence in her life. “I’ve gotten the chance to do a lot working here,” remarks Twan, reflecting on her time with the organization. Shanell began her time at Boyle Street working as a Hep C support worker connecting directly with community on their sexual health, she also worked part-time providing support as a youth worker in the Youth Unit.
Today Shanell leads the Streetworks Core Team, which provides harm reduction-based supports to individuals involved in the street-based sex trade and those experiencing homelessness and poverty in Edmonton – including operating the needle exchange van.
Shanell credits her passion and drive to wanting to give back to an organization that supported her and her family over many years. Her desire to do the best for those she serves is also driven by a desire for the best for her community. “I have family that is still out on the street today. So I treat everyone I work with like they are my family because they could be. These aren’t ‘those’ people; they are my people.”
Shanell’s time at Boyle Street has also opened a door to her advocacy work - something that she is deeply passionate about. For many years she been involved as an active member of AAWEAR (Alberta Alliance Who Educate and Advocate Responsibly) – an organization that provides peer support to those using substances. Today Shanell remains connected to AAWEAR. She is a member of CAPUD (Canadian Association of People Using Drugs) participating in Ministerial meetings and gatherings across Alberta, Canada, and the world. And has spoken at numerous conferences and gatherings about the benefits of a harm reduction approach to care for those using substances. Shanell was even invited to be a part of the Canadian delegation that travelled to Europe to speak at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. “Yeah, I’ve spoken at the UN on Stigma and discrimination” Shanell remarks as though it were just another work task. It is the type of response you would only expect from someone who sees advocating for substance users as second nature to them.
When asked why she works at Boyle Street, Shanell notes the influence of her own worker on her life. “Lorna Poundmaker was my worker when I left the shelter and was my role model. She did so much for me. Besides where else can you work where it's just your job to help people?!” When asked what makes working at Boyle Street special, Shanell notes the access to culture and cultural opportunities within the organization. “This place connects me back into my culture. Allows me to access my culture, to participate in sweats, go out on the land and pick medicine, and participate in ceremony – all alongside the people that we serve.”
“We know Culture can save lives and this organization understands its value for those we serve.” Shanell adds.
As a front-line service provider, advocate, and leader Shanell is solely focused on doing her best for those that she serves and is the true embodiment the values of Boyle Street Community Services. If you or someone you know is interested in joining our team and working alongside individuals like Shanell, please visit www.boylestreet.org/careers