A conversation with Kim Douglas, Avalon Residential Support Specialist


It was my pleasure to interview Kim Douglas and learn more about her! Kim has worked with Avalon Housing tenants for a total of nine years. Kim Douglas started at Avalon in August 2015. Before working at Avalon, she worked with Catholic Social Services for two years providing services to Avalon tenants.

Can you describe your typical workday?

When I arrive at work (at Avalon’s Ashley property), I first check in on tenants, look at the calendar for the day and tidy up the house.  I like that I work in a natural setting, that each tenant has their own room and own space, and that their room is their own home. 

What is the best thing about working at Avalon?

Kim’s eyes lit up when I asked her what is the best thing about working at Avalon. 

I like working with people who some may categorize as “hardcore and hard-to-reach” folks.  I appreciate Avalon’s harm reduction approach and the individualized plan of care for each tenant, which favors the person-centered approach.  I have seen lives change using this approach, which is why so many people have success living at the Ashley house.  I like that plans of care are customized for each person.  Over the years, I have built many relationships with Ashley tenants. It is rewarding to see people strive to improve their lives.  We had a situation where one of the housemates was not cleaning up after themselves, causing a disruption in the house.  I kept reaching out to this person, meeting them where they were, and one day, this person was sitting in the living room and raised their hand and asked how they could help.  It was an excellent example of how change happens slowly and over time.  The staff has to continually engage tenants and offer opportunities to improve their lives. Eventually, small changes can occur, leading to other small changes that equal significant progress over time. 

The key to the work I do is in relationships.  These relationships require continuous checking in, observation, and relentless engagement.  The trick to being good at this work is finding new ways to engage and help tenants work towards their goals.   

What inspires you?

I consider myself a humanitarian by nature.  I am inspired by caring for others and observing how a harm reduction approach can change lives.  I am an advocate for clients. I speak up for injustice, and I like that I am doing good work and giving back.  I look at the whole person, not the substance abuse or mental health challenges they are dealing with. I look at each client as a person and help them get back to themselves.  I remind folks that they have a safe place to be.  It is inspiring to see when someone has a breakthrough, or there is a little ray of sunshine in someone’s eyes.  I know then that I am doing something good.

What are your hobbies?

When I am not at work, I love to do arts and crafts. I enjoy the occasional nature walk and jigsaw puzzles on jigsawplanet.com.  I also love to bake.  Every year I bake each of the tenants a homemade birthday cake on their birthday.  

At the time of this interview, Kim was already thinking about what to make for Easter Breakfast.  She mentioned bunny pancakes to make for the house.

What did you do to get through COVID?

I kept in touch with friends and family via Zoom, celebrating birthdays and life events.  I am fully vaccinated, which I feel provides a little armor to stay well.  When I want to relax, I enjoy watching a variety of old time favorite comedies such as I Love Lucy, The Golden Girls and the Big Bang Theory.  I also like to watch documentaries on historical events. 

Fun facts about Kim:

I have a degree in Social Science coupled with strong academic studies in Health Care Administration.  I have worked as an Allied Health practitioner for 20 years. Additionally, I worked as an in-house OSHA AND CLIA compliance representative for both family and internal medicine practices.  I worked as a certified CPR instructor for all healthcare divisions at Integrated Health Associates (IHA). Most recently, I worked in Podiatry medicine at IHA, where I worked with care providers to provide free foot care at the Hope Clinic and to seniors living at Glacier Hills and Huron Oaks. I worked to promote and assist with a sock drive at the clinic site, providing lots of warm socks to people experiencing homelessness. 

What advice would you give a newly hired Residential Support Specialist (RSS)?

I have a holistic approach to the way I work.  My advice to a new RSS is to observe in an indirect way. It is helpful to let the people in the house warm up to you.  I think the best approach is to introduce yourself each time you start a shift and ask tenants “Is there anything I can help you with?”  It is important to set certain expectations.  It is essential that staff don’t get escalated when emotions are running high.  It’s important to constantly let tenants know that they are a good person and they have many talents to offer.  I have seen many successes over the years.  The staff’s job is to engage tenants regularly and work to figure out tenant interests and help them get back to their unique and/ or near normal selves before their world turned upside down.

– Jennifer Fitzpatrick

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