Denise McCluskey is the Development and Marketing Officer at Harvest House Atlantic in Moncton. The centre has been a staple of the city since 1997, offering an emergency homeless shelter, serving over 150 meals a day, and hosting several recovery and General Educational Development programs.

Through a government program, the centre hired an employee to keep the location clean. Denise explains that no matter how well he cleaned the grounds, when she arrived to work in the morning, she found cigarette butts everywhere.

“We encourage people not to smoke since we have an addictions recovery program, but we didn’t have a component on tobacco, When I kept seeing these butts, I decided to find resources to help us develop a program that we could build and offer within the life-skills component of our work at Harvest House Atlantic.”

Danny Gallant, the manager of the homeless centre and the drop-in centre, has been working at Harvest House Atlantic for the last 12 years. He also facilitates classes.

“We now have a life-skills class called Stop Smoking, Start Living! We had people from our homeless shelter and other programs, on average 15 participants for a series of 8 classes, with videos, interactive discussions, where we focused on youth smoking.”

The program was developed with the help of a Take Action Against Tobacco Use grant from the Department of Social Development.

“We’ve had a lot of people who came to almost all of the classes. Every time, people were telling me about their plans to quit. We discussed each of the small successes of the participants in reaching that goal. It’s had an amazing impact,” says Danny.

At the time of the interview, he stressed that one participant, under the age of 30, had been smoke-free because of the program.

“It changed the atmosphere at Harvest House. Since we started the classes, everybody started questioning their health. People used to disregard the statistics and the warnings. Now they’re constantly thinking about these things.”

Beyond the health impact of smoking, the program also presented the financial costs of smoking to the participants.

“Someone came in to talk about the real life use of the money they’re spending on cigarettes. The participants were amazed to find out they can turn it in to other things, like a trip or a car. When they’re smoking, they’re not realizing these resources could go into other things they want,” says Denise.

Denise says the program was designed to appeal to the common sense of the participants.

“We explained how long it took for their bodies to repair from smoking. The participants were engaged and interested in that information, because of the hands-on and face-to-face component.”

Harvest House Atlantic partnered up with different stakeholders in the community, like Crandall University, who provided a student to work on the development of their program.

“It was a longer process than just the classes. We did a lot of development and research to create a course that we can replicate and share. When we work in addiction recovery, it’s not just about alcohol or drug abuse, but any life-controlling substance which prevents someone from moving forward,” says Denise.

Denise reached out to a group of young group people who create videos. She challenged them to present the program to the public.

“I asked them to develop a trendy video people would want to click on, and that we could put up on Facebook. Our mission here is to connect compassionate people to people in need, to make a difference. They sat down, worked on a concept and worked around that idea.”

Denise is proud of the fact Harvest House Atlantic worked with the entire community. For example, the team extended the invitation to attend the program to different health agencies who work with youth.

“We built something we can share and give back. The development of the program was funded through a government grant and now we’re going to share it, at no cost. That makes my heart smile.”

The staff plans on building a report, with their achievements, successes, and challenges. These documents will be available in May 2017. Denise and Danny are not only excited to share the class material, but they hope to see Stop Smoking, Start Living! have a second life outside of Moncton.

Story and picture used with permission from Harvest House Atlantic.

Published in April 2017.

By Jean-Étienne Sheehy – NBATC Communications Coordinator.