Increases coverage and impact of interventions

Peer work creates an opportunity to reach and support people outside the regular service boundaries. Peers’ operations are based on people’s own level of understanding, inside the communities, where they actually live.
Peers are able to reach people where others have not had access before, in places that are unknown or unfamiliar to non-drug-using (outreach) workers. Peers are able to communicate more effectively with their community members than non-peer workers, because they speak in the same jargon and know the culture and codes. The trust that is therefore built up is an important base upon which support work can be built.

“When they know that we’re community health nurses, our program gets incredible respect – when they think that we’re just ex-users off the street who feel like doing this job because we want to give back to the community, we lose the respect for what we do.  The community doesn’t see a value in users being part of the program and they don’t recognize that someone who is currently using has much to contribute.”

Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force:  Peer Manual - A guide for peer workers and agencies




Most importantly, peers have credibility. They share background, habits and rituals and their ‘street respect’ is an authentic and genuine.  This provides peer workers the ability to provide trusted information and support to their colleagues.  People in the community recognise that ‘they’ve been there’ and are more likely to believe and trust the information they receive.  Peers have been shown to be an important, trusted referral route into formal services.

Thus, peer work provides an alternative to the traditional ‘provider-client’ model.