DI-Alternate-24In fields like medicine, psychology and social work, it is a general requirement for certain organizations to take on the role of teaching and facilitating student learning. These residency and practicum opportunities are aimed at helping prospective doctors, therapists and counselors gain real world experience in their chosen vocation.

When it comes to offering counseling for the homeless, the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre is one of those organizations.

Every year, we have a number of aspiring counselors come through our doors to complete their required practicum hours. All of them leave us with a renewed appreciation for the people we serve and the work we do.

This is the experience of one of those students.


I am 200 hours into a 300 hour counseling practicum at the Calgary Drop-In Centre. It’s a process that has been truly incredible. I recently underwent a considerable career change, leaving behind a management career in the Warehousing and Distribution industry to enter the Social Services field. I will be graduating CDI College’s Addictions and Community Services program with honors upon the completion of my Practicum.

What can I say about my experience thus far? It has been simultaneously humbling, eye-opening, intimidating, self-reflecting, insight-provoking, sad, honest, frustrating and overwhelming.

Not only have I had the immense opportunity to learn all of what a counselor at the Calgary Drop-In Centre does – but at its core, the Practicum process has really been about discovering Jerod and what is at the core of who I am. What are my triggers? What do I value? What are my beliefs? Where am I biased, and do I honestly have an open mind?

I’ve had one on one time with clients who have dealt with cancer, addiction, mental illness, being conned, experiencing first time homeless and long time homeless. Each of these stories have all given me invaluable moments of pause and self-inflection, along with opportunities to professionally process these unanticipated emotional disturbances.

What are my triggers? What do I value? What are my beliefs? Where am I biased and do I honestly have an open mind?

This journey has become so much more than learning a profession; it has become an excavation of the pith of my very being.

The role of a counselor here is vast and requires a superior knowledge of the various resources available in our city. It also requires, a honed-in ability to navigate these systems. Most importantly, the counselors continue to instill in me the importance of practicing a selfless, non-judgmental and individualistic approach in order to foster an environment that is conducive to the empowerment of a marginalized population.

The clientele who use our services are painted with the broad stroke title of “Homeless” but the necessary fact remains that they are each an individual with their own stories and own obstacles that prevent them from living a life many of us are accustomed to.

Along the way, I have personally spent one on one time with experienced people of the street, as well as clients who are tasting this world for the first time. I can tell you the fruits of our counselors’ advocating work bear results.

In the short time I have been working, I have seen a man in his late 60’s who, after 6-7 months here at the Drop In Centre, was placed in senior’s assisted living. I have seen a woman fleeing a domestic abuse situation find safety in a women’s shelter. And I have seen men and women who seem to have beaten down and against the odds, gain transitional housing or take advantage of employment training and set realistic goals for themselves to exit the homeless plight.

The clientele who use our services are painted with the broad stroke title of “Homeless” but the necessary fact remains that they are each an individual with their own stories and own obstacles that prevent them from living a life many of us are accustomed to.

Counselors were instrumental in all of the above, but they also do so much more – providing services such as securing government ID, filing taxes, helping to complete applications for entitled funding like Old Age Guaranteed Income, Pensions and Disability Supports.

The organic evolvement of my Practicum is something that a 500 word blog could not cover. The depth of humanity, love and spirit demonstrated by the staff within these walls at the Calgary Drop-In Centre only reaffirms the decision of path I’ve decided to embark on.

It is a challenging one but is value- laden and full of spiritually-based rewards.

Jerod Blake is a Social Work student in the Addiction & Community Services program at CDI College. He is currently working towards the completion of his honors diploma through a 300 hour practicum in the Counseling Department at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre