Touni has also helped Randy get back on his feet. Randy is a talented jazz musician who sings and plays guitar with his band Checkers.
“I used to do a Sinatra show here for years at the Jazz Festival, we played the Bessborough and the Sheraton. I’m more of a singer so the stuff I sing I learned how to play. I’m self-taught mostly, partially trained. I’ve been playing for 40 years, but I’m only 39,” jokes Randy.
Randy suffers from Fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder that affects the muscles and soft tissue. It can cause muscle pain, fatigue and tenderness in localized areas. Randy is unable to work because of the pain and found he could no longer pay his rent.
He stayed at the men’s shelter for two and half weeks and is working with a social worker to get into the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability program (SAID). He says his experience at The Lighthouse has been a positive one, “I’ve had no problems. It’s well run, they have good food here. Touni’s a really good guy, he helps people get back on their feet.”
Touni has helped to find Randy a furnished apartment of his own that is affordable. He also set him up with sheets and towels to get him started in his new home. “Many people don’t realize that the Lighthouse helps a lot of people, if they’re willing to help themselves,” says Randy, “You have to be willing to try to get your life back on the straight track.”
As Mike observes, “The Lighthouse is a place to come when you have nothing. If you need a place to stay I would advise anybody to come here. Great people, great staff, the food is wonderful. I would recommend it to anybody who needed a place, that’s for sure.”
Here is a link to Randy’s Soundcloud account. His most recent album is called Close Enough for Jazz and he has a beautiful voice- he really does sound like Frank Sinatra!
When Mike moved to the city he couldn’t find housing at first. Originally from Calgary, Mike came by way of Moose Jaw, where he had a job opportunity fall through. He arrived in Saskatoon to follow up on a housing offer, but in the end couldn’t afford to rent the room.
While staying in the men’s shelter, Touni arranged for Mike to look at some available houses, talked to the landlord on his behalf and got him set up with groceries and a roommate. “My parents live in Medicine Hat so they’re going to bring me all the furniture they’re not using,” says Mike who is now looking for work.
A self-described, ‘Jack of all Trades’, Mike is a trained welder and also specializes in auto body and painting work. He is determined to find a job soon, “If I can find any kind of work, I’ll take it. I don’t want to be in the system too long.”
“Touni needs a promotion. He’s a great guy,” Mike adds, “He goes out of his way to make people feel welcome and meet their needs. I can’t say enough good things about Touni.”
Kevin O. grew up in Gull Lake, Saskatchewan. As a teenager, he received a six string guitar from his parents for Christmas and immediately fell in love with music. He taught himself to play and eventually switched to the bass when he started his first band called The Grog’s On.
Playing high school dances and selling out shows at the Elk’s Hall eventually led Kevin to become a professional musician. “I’ve toured around from Thunder Bay to Victoria and all points in between,” says Kevin, whose last gig was with Regina-born country singer Sheila Deck.
Unfortunately, life on the road brought out the worst of Kevin’s mental health issues and addiction. “I’ve been drinking since I was 13 and from that point on until recently I was dependent on it just to do anything, I just felt more comfortable if I had a few drinks in me,” says Kevin, “And of course after traveling on the road with a band I mean you live in clubs and bars. I was an alcoholic right from the get-go.”
Kevin struggles with drug and alcohol addictions as well as depression, anxiety and overthinking. “I lay awake at night. I take meds for it, which does help. I’m going to investigate more into that with my psychiatrist,” he says. Hoping that his mental state would improve, Kevin gave up touring over fifteen years ago. But when his anxiety and depression didn’t subside, he had to quit music all together.
For the past year and a half Kevin has been living at The Lighthouse and actively seeking help with his recovery. He started in the men’s shelter, but eventually moved to the Affordable Housing tower. He receives funding from the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability program (SAID) which helps pay for his rent. “The suites are quite nice, plenty of room and mine stays relatively cool which I appreciate very much. I’m quite comfortable here,” says Kevin.
He knows that recovery is now his full time job, and his mental health is something he’ll have to deal with for the rest of his life. Kevin attends AA Meetings and a Recovery Group at The Lighthouse, as well as takes part in programs offered by Social Services in the Sturdy Stone Centre downtown.
“It’s just nice to get out every now and again. I have a counselor at Sturdy Stone as well, and there’s counselling here,” he explains. One of the classes focuses on how to deal with concurrent disorders, “That’s been part of my addictions process, you know what came first the chicken or the egg, the disorder or the addictions? It doesn’t matter, the one always leads back to the other.”
The counselling and education Kevin receives helps him to recognize and manage his behaviour before it can affect him negatively. “I recognize now when I start to isolate myself or start to get angry at myself really quickly or I’m not eating properly,” he says. Getting out and socializing helps combat those behaviours, so Kevin keeps his medication at the front desk, giving him a reason to come downstairs every morning.
Jeannie and Kevin
Another benefit to living at The Lighthouse is the medical care Kevin has access to. “When I first came here I was pretty close to cirrhosis and I’ve been able to get the medical attention here through Social Services and staying at The Lighthouse,” he says, “I’ve got a lot of stuff done that normally I wouldn’t have bothered with like psychiatric help, a liver specialist, and the physio therapist.”
Now that he has a support system in place, Kevin wants to get back to playing music again. He hasn’t picked up a guitar in a long time because it often triggers his impulse to drink. “When I pick up my guitar or listen to some of my old favourites it’s a big urge to drink again. But I’m working on it and I’m looking to get myself a bass guitar again. There’s a couple musicians here that work at the Lighthouse so it would be fun to jam sometime.”
Kevin feels proud that he’s come so far in only eighteen months. He knows that the road to recovery is a slippery slope and there may be setbacks along the way, but at The Lighthouse he is held accountable for his actions and that helps him to accept responsibility.
“For me it’s been a good place. I’m happy to be here, and I was happy to be in the shelter,” says Kevin, “Things have been going my way, slips and setbacks do happen but they’ve always helped me through it so I’m quite grateful to the staff. A lot of them I consider friends now, both clientele and staff for sure, which is kind of a good feeling. It’s almost like a family now, the whole lot of us.”
Darrel N has lived at The Lighthouse for a little over a year in the Complex Needs Wing. He’s easy to recognize- usually dressed up in a shirt and tie (when it’s not too hot) and always sporting a single, dangly earring. Darrel is a huge fan of Star Wars and loves drawing in the art room on Saturday mornings.
Born in Wadena, Darrel’s family originally comes from Fishing Lake First Nation. They moved thirty-four times before he was twenty years old and on numerous occasions Darrel and his brothers tried to run away back to their reserve.
As an adult, Darrel was always on the road. He’s lived everywhere from Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C., usually finding work as a labourer. Darrel lived in the states for over five years and hitchhiked through Utah and California, making it as far west as San Francisco.
While living in Ottawa, Darrel was in a pedestrian-vehicle accident while crossing the street. “I was hit twice and this last one, I was in a coma for a month,” he explains. Darrel doesn’t remember the accident, but the insurance forms stated that he was thrown a few feet, “I was surprised I didn’t go under.”
He had to stay in two separate hospitals while recovering and the nurses contacted his sister through the band office to notify her of the accident. “She had to come all the way to Ottawa to pick me up,” says Darrel, “she was surprised and kind of angry because it had been a few years since we had seen each other.”
After flying back to Saskatchewan with his sister, Darrel was forced to go back to Fishing Lake. “A health nurse on my reserve came to the place I was staying and we filled out an application to stay here.”
Since coming to The Lighthouse, Darrel enjoys living in the Complex Needs Wing because the staff help him regulate his medication and he can enjoy meals with his friends in the dining room. Sometimes he likes to go over to the Cameco Community Kitchen on Fridays for dinner.
However, the most helpful aspect of being at The Lighthouse is getting assistance with his legal issues. Following the accident, Darrel has had legal proceedings and Nurse Practitioner, Jeannie Coe, has helped him by talking to his lawyers on his behalf. He’s still recovering from the accident and has been going to a physiotherapy clinic on 8th St. for the past five months.
In Complex Needs, Darrel loves having his own room to himself, “It’s somewhere to kick back and relax, just to avoid people. When I’m here I just want to be left alone, just relax.” Sometimes he’ll visit friends in their room for coffee, but most of the time he likes to watch his Star Wars DVDs.
A collection of Star Wars bobble heads is proudly lined up on his coffee table and Darrel says his favourite character is Darth Vader. When asked what he likes most about The Lighthouse, he quickly replies, “Everything! I have my own room, my movies that I like, my stuff in my room. And when I move I get to take all of this. This is all of my memories, this is all good memories.”
Reception: coffee & tea reception: Saturday, July 23, 2pm
July 16 – August 11
The Gallery/art placement inc.
228 – 3rd Ave S. Saskatoon, SK S7K 1L9
306 664 3385
From the The Gallery website:
It has become a tradition for the past several years for us to mount a summer exhibition that steps slightly outside the gallery’s usual programming. Continuing this practice, we are pleased to present the work of Donald Bird, a previously unknown artist who happens to be a resident of the Lighthouse supported living facility in downtown Saskatoon.
We first met Donald through the art supplies branch of our business. He has been a regular customer for a number of years, experimenting with a range of materials, first pencils and paper, and later venturing into acrylic and oil paints. We have come to know him as a kind and thoughtful person who has faced challenges due to circumstances as well as difficulties in communicating verbally. Art has become a refuge and an alternative means of expression; we have been told he will spend entire days drawing and painting between meals. The Lighthouse has not only provided a stable and comfortable place for him to live, they have also recognized his interest in art-making and facilitated his access to the materials needed to pursue this passion. It is a testament to both the positive impact art can have, and to the good work the Lighthouse does to support and improve the lives of people in our community.
A familiar face in the art supplies store for a number of years, it was only recently that Donald started bringing some of his finished paintings and drawings in for us to see. There was something immediately unexpected and beautiful about the works; mythic visions rendered in gestural brushstrokes, natural and supernatural elements colliding in a painterly mash-up. The subjects are varied and familiar–landscapes, hockey players, icons of Canada’s wilderness–but the rendering is always unique. As someone who has received no formal art training, Donald’s artistic choices are often surprisingly sophisticated. It would be easy to assume that the works are informed by some knowledge of abstraction or the expressionist tradition, but it is more likely Donald’s innate sense for design and aesthetics. In fact, he doesn’t even work from photographic references; every image comes entirely from his memory and imagination. To look at these paintings and drawings is to understand something of his personal vision, and to see and feel the sheer joy of creative expression through art.