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.”
Leanne was born in Edmonton, but grew up in Thunderchild First Nation. She’s lived in the Complex Needs Wing since December, and before that was in the women’s emergency shelter.
“They’re really nice here. The best part of living here is you have company, you can talk to almost everyone here, and the staff too,” says Leanne who has made a few good friends at The Lighthouse.
She enjoys coming to the dining hall for meals every day and confesses that her favourite is Fish and Chips, “their soup and sandwiches are really good too. I can load up on tomatoes.”
Leanne loves going to art class on Saturday mornings and participating in Bingo Night once a month. “I also like that there are church groups that come here around Christmas time, even a month before to sing Christmas songs. It’s very heartwarming,” says Leanne.
Recently, Leanne has been focusing on her fitness routine and taking advantage of the beautiful summer weather. “I go for walks and I’ve been losing weight. I lost fifteen pounds,” she says, and when a staff member compliments her on how good she looks, Leanne beams with pride.
When asked about the Metis Heritage pin she’s wearing on her dress, Leanne explains she got it at YXE Connects, an event held every May that gives vulnerable people in the community access to many programs and services all under one roof. She recalls, “It was really nice. The best part was they give you a gift bag. Inside there’s shampoo and conditioner and there’s this other gal I know who needed that this past week so I gave her mine.”
The staff at The Lighthouse are sad to say goodbye to Leanne, who has decided to move back home to Thunderchild this summer. She’s excited to live with her parents again, “they have cows and horses,” says Leanne, “and Mom is putting in a flower bed and garden. They have empty nest syndrome and they miss me.”
From all the staff at The Lighthouse, we wish Leanne the best with her move this month!
It’s been over three years since the Complex Needs Wing at The Lighthouse opened its doors to clients with mental health issues. The program has just added eight beds to the recently renovated Dubé Tower as part of the six month pilot project with the Health Region. New rooms are a welcome addition to those who need a safe place to stay in the city.
Mental illness is often an underlying cause of chronic homelessness, as many are faced with, “difficulty of various kinds in keeping their housing. Some end up getting kicked out of their accommodations due to their illness or addiction, or their needs are in excess of what their approved care home can provide,” says Dennis Bueckert, Director of Client Services.
The one year program is meant for individuals with a significant mental health issue and, “there can also be an addictions component to it in some cases. About two thirds of the folks up there have a combination of the two,” says Bueckert.
The unit is intended to be a transitional program to get people on the path to greater independence and long term housing. It operates with support from Saskatoon Health Region’s Mental Health and Addictions Services. Case Manager Kemi Bashorun explains, “The aim of the program is to help with the health, stability and independence of individual clients who are suffering from mental illness and addictions.”
Case Manager Kemi Bashorun
The process of admission begins with a referral from someone working with the potential client, such as their psychiatrist, community health nurse or social worker. Once the client’s needs are assessed and found appropriate for the program, an interview is organized between the client, their care worker, a Health Region representative and a member of the Lighthouse staff.
Bashorun emphasizes that they only accept people who are serious about committing to the program. “We don’t want someone who has been forced into the program. Don’t forget we give them autonomy to make choices and decisions. So they have to be able to say ‘Ok, I think that program will be suitable for me,” says Bashorun.
Successful clients are invited to move into their own private room in the Complex Needs Wing. Each room has its own bed, dresser and bathroom with a shower. Some people bring their own TVs or other furniture, and many go a long way in decorating their room. Meals are provided in the dining hall, and clients are encouraged to socialize with other residents.
A requirement of the service is taking part in daily activities. The Lighthouse offers various programs such as Games Night, People Skills and Recovery Group for those struggling with addictions. Clients may choose to be involved in programs at other organizations, “some of them, they go to Clothing Depot to volunteer, it’s so they have something to engage in,” says Bashorun.
The Complex Needs office
The Complex Needs office is on the first floor of the Dubé Supported Living Tower. It’s a small room with a horse stall door so staff can supervise clients taking their medication and interact with them throughout the day. Part of the treatment plan is for staff to be able to monitor their medication compliance. They make sure clients are taking their medication as prescribed and observe the effects. If staff see a deterioration in their mental state, they will liaise with their nurse or psychiatrist to alter the dosage or type of medication.
Clients are also encouraged to meet with a case manager regularly and discuss their progress. It gives them an opportunity to propose other forms of treatment, discuss resources or suggest adjustments to their medication that may be needed. According to Bashorun, the aim is to, “help stabilize them and help to promote independence. So what we’re trying to avoid is for them to relapse and have to go back to the hospital.”
A vital component to the program is establishing a relationship based on trust. Lighthouse staff engage with clients on a daily basis, “so they’ll know that we’re here to listen, we know where they’re coming from and empathize with them,” says Bashorun.
Jamie Johnson has been living in The Complex Needs Wing since last winter. She’s ten months clean of all substances and credits The Lighthouse with her sobriety. “They’re treating me really well,” says Johnson, “they look after my meds. I’m schizo affective and bi-polar, so I’m on medication for my mind and I’m on methadone for treating my drug habit.”
All rooms have a private bathroom with a shower
Once a client has completed nine months of the program, their case manager begins to prepare them to transition back into the community. They collaborate with their care worker to find them appropriate housing. Some clients move in with roommates or go to group homes, but many don’t want to leave.
“They really like it here, this is their home. They’re very stable and the option of leaving at the end of twelve months is difficult for them,” says Bashorun, “So we’re not really pushing them, but at the same time it’s like a baby step.” In those cases, staff work to place clients in the Supported Living Suites at The Lighthouse. Those rooms offer more independence without taking them away from their environment.
The Complex Needs Wing recently expanded from nine to seventeen rooms. Occupancy rates are high, running between 80-95%. Two case managers and four staff provide support for these clients.
Support Worker Adriana Krebsz is finishing her last shift in The Complex Needs Wing before moving to her new house and a job with the Health Region. “I was really happy here. When I was hired I planned to stay long, but we found a house we liked in Wynyard,” says Krebsz. Originally from Romania, Krebsz is a social worker and nurse with experience working with the elderly. “I’ll miss you,” says Bashorun, giving her a big hug.
Adriana and Kemi
Bashorun also moved to Canada with her family, and has been working at The Lighthouse for the past year and a half. Born in the UK, she grew up in Nigeria but returned to England for university. She worked as a dual diagnostic nurse in several different environments. “I’ve worked in in-patient psychiatry, and as an emergency nurse. I’ve worked in rehab centers, community drug and alcohol settings, and my last work was in prison corrections in London,” says Bashorun.
“The thing about The Lighthouse is this is a family kind of setting. So it’s not a tense environment, even though your work is so tense,” Bashorun says, “Even if you go out, the impression that you get from the community is, ‘Oh Lighthouse! How do you cope?’ Sometimes I just laugh and say, ‘You know what? We have people here that really need help and it’s somebody’s job to be there for them.”
Saskatoon Health Region’s 14-Day Challenge, which ended yesterday, has resulted in a new six-month pilot project at the Lighthouse Supported Living in partnership with the Region and M.D. Ambulance. The Lighthouse is a community-based organization that provides emergency shelter, supported living and affordable housing to those in need in Saskatoon.
As part of the six-month pilot project, the Lighthouse will:
Dedicate another eight beds to clients with mental health complex needs and expand support to clients 24 hours a day. The increase in beds from 9 to 17 will support people to transition to independent living.
Expand the Stabilization Unit to 24 hours. The unit currently provides emergency shelter to clients under the influence of drugs or alcohol from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. The increase in hours is expected to reduce substance misuse and mental health-related admissions to emergency departments, and improve access to addiction support.
Expand the Lighthouse Mobile Outreach service from six to 16 hours a day, improving access to services, reducing the use of ambulances and ensuring case managers can spend less time transporting clients and more time assisting them one-on-one. The Mobile Outreach service allows a team of two to provide transportation to homeless or struggling individuals to the Lighthouse or other support services.
Have a paramedic on site 12 hours a day, seven days a week. An embedded paramedic on the Lighthouse’s primary health team will be able to provide emergency assessment and triage, as well as general paramedicine, reducing the need for ambulance and acute care access.
Add a care aide, addictions counsellor and increased primary health nurse practitioner hours to the team to improve continuity of care, enhance referral and access to appropriate services and advance coordination of multiple health team members on site.
Overall, the expansion of services is meant to decrease emergency department visits and consults, ambulance and police calls, and inpatient admissions to acute care by ensuring the right care by the right provider at the right time in the right place. For more information on consults, click here.
“Saskatoon Health Region is making investments at the Lighthouse that will have a significant impact on the quality of life for Lighthouse residents and those using their shelter services,” says Tracy Muggli, Director of Mental Health and Addictions Services, Saskatoon Health Region. “Improving the overall health status and outcomes of Lighthouse residents in an environment they are already accessing will improve the quality of life of some of the most vulnerable, high-needs and at-risk individuals in our community.”
The community paramedicine model is an important piece to ensure clients are provided the right care at the right time in their homes.
“M.D. Ambulance is pleased to have a paramedic embedded with the Lighthouse care team,” says Gerry Schriemer, Chief Operating Officer for M.D. Ambulance. “The paramedic will bring a skill set that will assist the decision-making process to ensure that clients receive the right care utilizing the right resources at the right facilities.”
The pilot project is a result of the Region’s ongoing planning sessions as part of the Lighthouse Integrated Health and Shelter Team.
“We are very thankful for the support of Saskatoon Health Region and M.D. Ambulance, allowing us to work together to help men and women achieve greater health, stability and independence,” says Don Windels, Executive Director of the Lighthouse Supported Living. “Through co-operation in our community we can address gaps in the system and help improve the lives of those in Saskatoon.”