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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.”

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.

Therapy Dogs Visit the Lighthouse

Dogs aren’t just household pets anymore. A research project between three Canadian universities — including the U of S — is studying the effects dogs have on people with mental illness through therapy and counselling. We love having these dogs come and visit with us!

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 11.10.09 AM

IMG_0084The Therapy Dogs visit many organizations in Saskatoon, and visit the Lighthouse every second Tuesday just after supper. They bring such joy to the Lighthouse – we even get requests for cats!

Thank you Saskatoon CTV for doing the story, St John’s Ambulance for running the program and thanks to our clients who share why they love having the dogs come and visit.

http://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=752470&playlistId=1.2663401&binId=1.1165954&playlistPageNum=1

 

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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Lighthouse program provides mental health support

Complex Needs18

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.”

Kemi 2

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.

Complex Needs 13

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.”