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Lighthouse program provides mental health support

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A room in Complex Needs

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.”

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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.

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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

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.

Krebsz and Bashorun

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.”

Top 5 tips on helping Panhandlers in Saskatoon

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How should people handle panhandling in Saskatoon? The issue has come to the forefront in the media in the past couple of weeks, with many people weighing in. A 2011 article in the Atlantic stated:

I’m certain that there are some cases where donations to an especially needy beggar are justified. But the ultimate danger in panhandling is that we don’t give to every beggar. There’s not enough change in our purses. We choose to donate money based on the level of perceived need. Beggars known this, so there is an incentive on their part to exaggerate their need, by either lying about their circumstances or letting their appearance visibly deteriorate rather than seek help.

If we drop change in a beggar’s hand without donating to a charity, we’re acting to relieve our guilt rather than underlying crisis of poverty. The same calculus applies to the beggar who relies on panhandling for a booze hit. In short, both sides fail each other by being lured into fleeting sense of relief rather than a lasting solution to the structural problem of homelessness.

Here are a few suggestions for a response the next time a panhandler asks you for money:

1. Acknowledge and Engage

  • Smile and actually say hello. Go out of your way to approach rather than avoid panhandlers.
  • Engage the person by starting a conversation. Take time to listen.

2. Don’t give money

  • Ask what their greatest need is. In most cases, meeting the immediate need of food or clothing is best.
  • Offer an alternative. Socks, underwear, toiletry items including toothbrushes and toothpaste, bottled water, granola bars or gift certificates for food can help address immediate needs.

3. Invite BhcmBegCcAAxpIX

  • If you want to help a panhandler or homeless person get back on their feet, you can point them to the Lighthouse or other service agency aimed at lifting people out of poverty. Since 1997 we have provided long-term housing for those who have experienced homelessness in Saskatoon.
  • If they are in immediate distress you can call the Lighthouse Mobile Outreach at 306-653-0538. They can transport them to a safe space.

4. Donate 

  • Many organizations are working together to end homelessness in Saskatoon including the Lighthouse, the Friendship Inn, the Bridge, Salvation Army, and the Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre and many more. These organizations are able to increase their levels of support and programming through your donations of money and goods. To donate to the Lighthouse click here.

5. Volunteer

  • If you volunteer, not only do you give back to the community and help those in need but by sharing your experience you can help eliminate misconceptions and stereotypes. Gather a group of friends and start a clothing or non-perishable food drive, host a fundraising event, or volunteer at the Lighthouse Cameco Community Kitchen or other local organizations.

In Orlando, Florida, the Central Florida Regional Commission took another approach to panhandling. They asked people who where panhandling what the people who passed them everyday might not know about them. The end result was a video that is truly eye-opening.

If you have a story of helping a panhandler in a non-traditional way, please let us know in the comments!

Stephanie Hughes – Donor Story

Stephanie Hughes is truly an inspiration to those around her. Young, driven and passionate about helping Saskatoon be the best it can be, Stephanie always puts a smile on the faces of those around her. Her donation proves that philanthropy is for people of all ages. Her reasons for giving back are very connected to love for her family:

Steph

After returning from WW2, my grandfather often astonishingly commented on how poverty could exist in Canada, a country that has so much. Frank and Irma Hughes lived generosity, supporting those in need without a second thought. My parents passed on this legacy, selflessly giving of their resources and time. My family has taught me the importance of giving and of loving those who may need a special act of kindness. My own path has been a blessed one and I am fortunate to be able to support The Lighthouse, an amazing organization that provides support and friendship to people in need.

–Stephanie Hughes
Thank you so much to Stephanie Hughes! You too can make a difference in your community. Donate online to the Lighthouse by clicking here.

Host Your Own Summertime Event for The Lighthouse

Host an event for The Lighthouse

There is a lot of great stuff to do this summer.  I don’t know about you but my summer involves trips out to the cabin, taking in the SaskTel Jazz Festival, walking Broadway during the PotashCorp Fringe Festival, taking the boys to the Ex, and being upset that I am on a diet while we go as a family to Taste of Saskatchewan.  

It easy to forget that we even during our summer of festivals, there is a lot of poverty in our midst. Donations to The Lighthouse drop over the summer months, while the need is often higher.  On Monday our women’s emergency shelterbroke new records for need and the we are seeing more people come in hungry and without shelter.  Saskatoon has the capacity to make this summer a summer of fresh starts for those in need but we need your help.

During a summer of good times with friends and need in our city, please consider combining the two and host an event for The Lighthouse.

Whether you are holding a backyard BBQ, a steak night, or casual golf tournament with friends, we want to partner with you to make it a success. We appreciate your efforts and want to provide as much support as we can to ensure that your event is the best it can be.

If you are holding an event and you simply want to donate proceeds to The Lighthouse Supported Living, feel free to do so. This form is especially for groups or individuals wishing to officially be registered and recognized as a third party event for The Lighthouse. Third Party Events are special fundraising events which are planned, implemented and financed by individuals or organizations outside of The Lighthouse. As a third party event, you are eligible to receive The Lighthouse support and a Lighthouse presence at the event and cross-promotion.

As a registered Lighthouse third party event, here are some ways we can support you:

  • Promoting your event on Facebook, Twitter, Upcoming, and on the website
  • Sending a The Lighthouse representative, when requested and available
  • Providing to the host group charitable receipts for approved donations
  • Provide copies of The Lighthouse promotional material for participants

For more information or to apply to host an event in support of The Lighthouse download our Third Party Event Information Package and Application

Send your completed applications to:

Phone: 306.664.4663
Fax: 306.665.7770
Email: deeann.mercier@lighthousesaskatoon.org

Design for the homeless

The Atlantic Cities has a fantastic post about excellent design and homeless shelters.

Sometimes when Theresa Hwang is visiting a project site, maybe the 102-unit Michael Maltzan apartments rising from the corner of East 6th Street and Maple Avenue on the edge of downtown Los Angeles, pedestrians will stop and gawk and inquire about what’s coming.

“What are you building?” they invariably want to know.

“It’s housing.”

“Can we move in?”

“Well,” Hwang then responds, “are you formerly homeless?”

And this always throws people for a loop. Hwang’s organization, the Skid Row Housing Trust, has been renovating and providing permanent supportive housing for the city’s homeless for more than 20 years. But more recently, dating back to a first collaboration with Maltzan about eight years ago, the Trust has been building its own developments that remarkably mimic market-rate condos. Really striking market-rate condos.

The strategy is built on the idea that high design matters for the homeless, too, because it changes the dynamic between these buildings and their residents – and between both of them and the communities in which they’re located. Nothing can deflate the NIMBYism that inevitably accompanies social housing quite like a building that looks like this:

Affordable Housing in Skid Row

Affordable Housing in Skid Row

Affordable Housing in Skid Row

Design makes a difference in mental health and these designs are spectacular.