Pat grew up in Toronto and graduated from the Canadian College of Business and Computers in 2002. She worked in customer service and IT before deciding it was time for a change.
“Toronto is one of those cities where basically you love it or you hate it. With Toronto it was ok but it was time to do something different,” says Pat. She moved west, finishing her GED in Alberta and eventually making her way out to B.C.
It was in Victoria that Pat fell on hard times and was unable to find work. She decided to come to Saskatoon at the end of May. “I have family out here, but I don’t rely on my family. I need to get things together for myself,” she explained.
When she arrived, Pat only had enough money to stay in a hotel for a few nights. She heard of The Lighthouse, phoned to enquire about their services and ended up in contact with Touni Vardeh-Esakian, one of the Case Managers.
Touni helps clients at The Lighthouse find housing and he quickly met with Pat to discuss her housing needs and budget. Although she’s on an unemployment allowance program, it doesn’t supply Pat with the funds needed for a damage deposit or provide a letter of guarantee to a landlord. She ended up staying in the women’s shelter for a few nights while Touni helped her find a place she could afford.
Pat is now living in a house on Avenue V. She has her own room and shares the bathroom, kitchen and living room with three other roommates. When she moved in, Touni found her a bed and bought her some groceries to get started.
“I went to the Employment Centre and I’ve since been able to apply for some work online. I just finished orientation with Labour Ready, so now as of tomorrow I’m going to go look for work in the morning,” says Pat, who hopes that her IT background will give her an advantage.
She’s grateful for Touni’s support in a tough situation. “He was able to help me here in the city when I didn’t know many people to help me out,” says Pat, “With the Lighthouse I was able to be in a place where I didn’t have to struggle.”
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.”
However, 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.
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.
“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.”
“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.
Since 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.
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.”