Preparing for Disaster: Peer-Run Programs as Shelter

Ann Rider, M.S.W., and Jim Wright

In the wake of recent major disasters throughout the southern U.S. and territories, it’s become clear that shelter accommodations may be more traumatic to individuals with mental health challenges than the disaster itself. While state and federal organizing may help alleviate some of these challenges, peer-run programs on the local level may choose to plan for disasters with the goal of becoming a temporary shelter for participants in those programs. Such programs, in which participants are known to each other and to staff, are likely to feel much safer to participants than a crowded, noisy shelter full of strangers Two peer-run programs in Washington State are currently making these plans with their participants, and the presenters share that planning process here to be replicated and amended in other areas.

Learning Goal: Attendees will share a planning strategy that can be adapted to their own areas. Learning Objectives:

  • Review the disaster potential for various areas
  • Review the capacity of peer-run programs in local areas
  • Discuss and adapt strategies for offering shelter to participants in a disaster
  • Share strategies to refine the planning process locally

    Ann Rider recently retired from a career in peer support, including acting as Executive Director for peer-run programs in two states, working for Arizona’s Protection and Advocacy System, and acting as Recovery & Resiliency Manager at Optum Pierce RSN in Tacoma, Washington. This career arose from her person recovery from addiction and the long-term consequences of trauma. In retirement, she continues to teach Washington’s peer support curriculum and to offer continuing education for peer support workers in that state. This workshop arose from her observations following major disasters, as part of disaster preparation in her state.