Q1 Update with Robyn Romano, Distress Centre’s CEO

2023 has had a lot in store for Distress Centre. Join Robyn Romano, Distress Centre CEO, and Aisha Sheikh, Crisis Line Volunteer, to learn about exciting updates, events and more in our Q1 update.


Please note that answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Q: What’s been going on at DC in Q1 of 2023?

Robyn: We had a really exciting first quarter of the year. We’ve been doing a lot of work over the last couple of years around community safety and partnering across systems with health police and other community organizations. And so in February of this year, we got to see the next enhancement of that, the launch of the Community Mobile Crisis Response teams through The Alex, who we partner with. And so we were a big piece of that in District 4 and District 5 here in Calgary because those teams are accessed through a call to 211. And so it’s really again been that enhancement of how does community come together in part to partner together differently to meet the needs of the community.

Q1 was a super exciting time because we’re seeing more things happen on site at Distress Centre. We’ve actually got our volunteer training back in-house and in person at Distress Centre. Throughout the pandemic, everything turned so virtual and so remote and we almost turned virtual completely overnight. But now trying to navigate what stays virtual, what comes back on site, it has been that longer process, but we’re back to having in-person onsite volunteer training groups again, which is absolutely amazing.

To me the volunteers are the heart and soul of what we do as an organization and I get to work with and for the absolute best people that our city has, people that can come in and give of themselves on our crisis lines every day. I just have such admiration for getting to see more life and vibrancy back on site has been an amazing part of the first quarter of this year for us.

In addition to the volunteer training, we have brought some of our counseling sessions back on site. It’s been interesting though. We offer now counselling, in-person, by video and by phone, and the majority of people accessing service still want video or phone. I think as things started to open up, we assumed and anticipated that more people would want in-person sessions. So I think as we are bringing more life and vibrancy and doing more things on site, I think it’s also important for us not to lose all of the virtual components that we did gain through the learning of the pandemic. It’s been that navigation for us over the last couple of months of what do we do hybrid, what do we do on site and what do do we keep virtual.

We had some really exciting stuff happen for our team that operates out of SORCe. Distress Centre has the largest team that operates out of SORCe, which is a collaborative just on the C-train line, working with those that are currently unhoused or those experiencing risk of being unhoused.

We were able to relaunch our ID replacement program. We know that often for people wanting to get banking, get a rental property, anybody who is looking to get out of homelessness, one of your key components of that is having ID. And so during the pandemic response, we did have funding that allowed us to start an ID clinic, but it was one-time project based funding.

And so unfortunately we had to ramp that program down, but we identified how much of a need that was. And so we were able to work with our partners at Calgary Homeless Foundation and get that program relaunched again at the beginning of this year, which has been really, really exciting. It’s asking what can we do as an organization to reduce the barriers that get in the way of people being able to succeed and thrive in their lives.

Our fund development team has been working extremely hard to organize our first annual Drive for Distress Charity Golf Tournament. That’s happening on June 13th. Registration for golfers has now opened and would encourage people to come and be part of what is going to be an
extremely fun day, but also a really important day in talking about the work that we do and raising the much needed funds for our crisis services.

Watch more of this conversation: Volunteerism and volunteer appreciation with Robyn and Aisha