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Client Story: Kevin O, Professional Bass Player

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

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.”

Client Story – Jaime

This morning we celebrate the life of Jamie who passed away last week. The following article was published in the Lighthouse Newsletter in June. Jaime maintained her sobriety till the end of her life and was proud to celebrate 15 months sober at the Lighthouse. 

Born and raised in Kindersley, Jamie left home at seventeen to travel the world. She has visited over ten countries in her life and lived in California for fifteen years.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 1.26.10 PMAfter a year in Europe, where she spent time in France, England, Spain, Morocco, Egypt and Algeria, Jaime lived in New York for six months. From there she returned to Canada and lived in Toronto and Vancouver briefly. She then toured Mexico in a VW camper van with her first husband, and eventually found her way to San Diego and Los Angeles.

“I’m a Sagittarian. Sagittarians are travelers early on and then later on in our lives we settle down,” says Jamie. True to her sign, she has been in Saskatoon for the last ten years.

Jamie now lives in the Complex Needs Wing of the Lighthouse and has her own apartment with a bathroom and shower. “They’re treating me really well,” says Jamie, “they look after my meds. I’m schizo effective bi-polar, so I’m on medication for my mind and I’m on methadone for treating my drug habit.”

Although Jamie loved to travel, it was in San Diego that she began to use heroin. Her addiction quickly spiraled into a $1000 a day drug habit, “It was hard for me coming up with that money every day,” she recalls.

Eventually she discovered the wonders of methadone and it’s kept her off heroin for thirteen years. Unfortunately, her addiction was much harder to beat, “I knew what it was like to kick the heroin habit, but oftentimes you replace one habit with another habit.” Jamie replaced heroin with crystal methamphetamine and cocaine, and her addiction persisted until she found The Lighthouse.

Jamie is proud to say that since she’s been living at The Lighthouse she has been clean of all substances. It’s been seven months, and she describes her sobriety as a relief. “Things are more in perspective now,” says Jamie, “I wake up in the morning and I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to get my drugs.”

coffee

Looking back, Jamie credits The Lighthouse as the reason she’s clean now, “I think that when I started being here it rubbed off on me, the attitude about not using drugs anymore.”

Her life has changed a lot since moving into her own apartment. She can come and go as she pleases, spend time with her friends and attend Recovery Group, where she talks about her struggle with addiction, “Thirty nine years I had a needle in my arm. Thirty nine years. So I’m proud of myself for not doing that anymore.”

–Written by Paige Goodman

Jaime spoke at least 3 languages, was a musician and a hair dresser at one time. Among other traditional hymns at her funeral, the Recessional was Thank You for the Music by ABBA. Jaime had such a positive personality and greeted everyone with a smile and a chat. She made everyone feel good ‘down to the tips of their toes’. She will be missed.

Closure of daytime Lighthouse programs ‘big setback for the city:’ Weighill

ANDREA HILL, SASKATOON STARPHOENIX
More from Andrea Hill, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

IMG_0904 A funding shortfall has forced Saskatoon’s Lighthouse Supported Living shelter to cancel its daytime program.

People who are homeless, intoxicated or otherwise need a safe place to stay can now only access the centre from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Lighthouse communications director DeeAnn Mercier said “it’s scary to contemplate” what the city’s most vulnerable people will do during the day, especially in current temperatures, and she fears the number of downtown disturbances will rise if people who need to sleep off a rough night have nowhere to go.

Mercier said funding challenges started in November, when the provincial social services ministry, one of the organization’s biggest backers, gave notice it will apply stricter qualifications in deciding who is eligible for funding.

Under its contract with the Lighthouse, the ministry gives the organization an emergency shelter per diem for people who use the shelter. Mercier said the organization was told in November that funding will only be available for people who meet the government’s definition of “homeless.”

IMG_0903However, there’s many reasons why people — even those with fixed addresses — seek shelter at the Lighthouse, she noted.

“It may be that their ex-partner is there, it may be that there’s 20 people there, it may be that they’re not allowed to stay there when they’re intoxicated, it may be that they don’t feel safe there. That, to us, fits the Lighthouse’s definition of homelessness,” Mercier said.

The provincial government’s direction was that people who, for example, are collecting pension cheques or have a source of income are expected to pay to stay at the Lighthouse, Mercier said.

That never happens, because most people showing up at the Lighthouse can’t afford anything, Mercier said. Instead of turning people away, the organization has housed and fed them, albeit with less funding. Mercier estimates that between 40 and 50 per cent of people arriving at the centre are now coming with no funding.

The practice has left the centre in a “very concerning” financial situation, forcing managers to make decisions about cuts. First on the chopping block was 24-hour programming, which started at the centre’s stabilization unit almost a year ago.

“This is a big setback for the city,” said police Chief Clive Weighill. “The Lighthouse is predominantly the main place for people to go who need assistance, and without this open during the daytime, it’s going to leave a big gap of service here in the city.”

A spokesperson for the social services ministry said the province is in the process of providing an additional $150,000 to the Lighthouse within its current contract to help it provide emergency shelter while the health, social services and corrections ministries examine a longer-term, sustainable funding model for its operations.

Mercier said the money will help deal with the shortfall from 2015 but is not enough to keep the centre open 24 hours.

“We’re really hesitant to continue daytime operations if we don’t have sustainable funding for it,” she said.

In an emailed statement, social services spokesman Andrew Dinsmore said eligibility for emergency shelter per diems is based on assessing people’s income and assets from all sources, and their needs.

If a person’s resources are insufficient to meet their daily living needs for basic items such as food, clothing, or shelter, they may be eligible,” he said.

His statement did not indicate how the criteria for an emergency shelter per diem changed in November.

Lighthouse Stabilization and Wellness Centre Officially Opens in Saskatoon

Released on November 20, 2015

An innovative wellness center at The Lighthouse Supported Living (Lighthouse) officially opened today in Saskatoon.  The shelter will provide an alternative for manageably intoxicated individuals who are unable to access other shelter services.Part of the funding is also being used to renovate 59 existing units in the Dubé Lighthouse that provides housing for close to 70 individuals.   The Lighthouse Supported Living Inc. operates the Dubé Lighthouse facility.

The total cost of this project is $4 million.  Funding of $1.5 million from the government was provided by the Ministry of Health ($1 million), the Ministry of Justice ($250,000), and the Ministry of Social Services through the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation ($250,000).  The City of Saskatoon contributed $126,000 toward the project and additional funding was provided through the Homelessness Partnering Strategy and other fundraising.

IMG_0163“Our government is proud to work with Lighthouse to help vulnerable citizens in this community have improved access to a safe place to live with supports in place if required,” Social Services Minister and Minister responsible for Saskatchewan Housing Corporation Donna Harpauer said.  “This aligns with a number of priorities outlined in our Provincial Housing Strategy, which includes supporting individuals and families in greatest housing need.  These two initiatives are examples of that vision in action.”

“We are pleased to see the completion of the Lighthouse Stabilization and Wellness Centre project in Saskatoon,” Health Minister Dustin Duncan said.  “We are proud to support our community partners like Lighthouse, who are reaching out into communities to help people improve and maintain their health and wellbeing.   This project also supports the recommendations in the Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan, specifically ensuring that individuals with addictions issues have access to timely and appropriate care.”

IMG_0168“Our ministry is proud to partner in upgrading this valuable community facility,” Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell said.  “We know how important it is that places like the Dubé Lighthouse exist to provide shelter and housing for vulnerable individuals who require extra support.”

“We are grateful to the many community members who came together to volunteer and donate toward the ‘Up’ Capital Campaign, Les and Irene Dubé who led with an amazing gift of $1 million, and the Provincial Government for seeing the value in this project,” Lighthouse Executive Director Don Windels said.  “We are thankful the expanded Stabilization Unit will be operational before this winter so we can continue to provide emergency shelter to those in need in our community.”

The project features a stabilization shelter with approximately 38 beds for individuals who are manageably intoxicated.   The second floor provides programming and office space, and the third floor features a wellness center with exercise facilities and atrium.

IMG_0166Since November 2007, 167 affordable rental units have been completed by the province for those considered ‘hard to house’ and facing multiple challenges such as disabilities and addictions in Saskatoon.  Including the Lighthouse, an additional 40 units are currently under construction.

The Lighthouse provides housing for approximately 230 individuals on any given day.   It provides 126 permanent housing units and about 94 emergency shelter spaces for vulnerable individuals, including the working poor, people with physical or intellectual disabilities, and people with addictions.

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