Tag Archives: emergency shelter

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.”

Leanne is moving on up!

IMG_2249Leanne 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 p-12212-Metis-Lapel-pin-goldgot 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!

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–Written by Paige Goodman

 

Lighthouse AGM March 29th, 2016 7:00pm

The Lighthouse Supported Living Annual General Meeting is tomorrow, March 29th at 7:00pm in the Lighthouse dining room. 304 2nd Ave S, entrance is on 20th St. We will share about the work done by the Lighthouse including expansion of services and uplifting stories of lives changed in 2015. All are welcome to attend.AGM

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.