When Mike moved to the city he couldn’t find housing at first. Originally from Calgary, Mike came by way of Moose Jaw, where he had a job opportunity fall through. He arrived in Saskatoon to follow up on a housing offer, but in the end couldn’t afford to rent the room.
While staying in the men’s shelter, Touni arranged for Mike to look at some available houses, talked to the landlord on his behalf and got him set up with groceries and a roommate. “My parents live in Medicine Hat so they’re going to bring me all the furniture they’re not using,” says Mike who is now looking for work.
A self-described, ‘Jack of all Trades’, Mike is a trained welder and also specializes in auto body and painting work. He is determined to find a job soon, “If I can find any kind of work, I’ll take it. I don’t want to be in the system too long.”
“Touni needs a promotion. He’s a great guy,” Mike adds, “He goes out of his way to make people feel welcome and meet their needs. I can’t say enough good things about Touni.”
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.”
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
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.”
Rick M was born and raised in Saskatoon. He graduated from Evan Hardy Collegiate and studied Public Administration at the University of Saskatchewan, then got into sales. “My first job out of university was with the greeting card company Carlton Cards,” says Rick, “I worked for them for a couple of years out of Saskatoon, my territory was Northern Saskatchewan. And then I got a good recommendation from them and had an opportunity to move to Vancouver and I took it.”
Rick lived in Vancouver for 15 years and had a great time, “I loved it, absolutely loved it. The only drawback is the rain can weigh you down some. But I got over it by saying at least it’s not -30 degrees in the winter.”
Unfortunately, in 2002 Rick started to lose his eyesight. He went to see an optometrist in Vancouver who failed to diagnose the glaucoma that was affecting his right eye and send him to a specialist. Two months later Rick was blind. “We sued and we got a little money,” he recalled, “The judge ruled incompetence and my case was settled very quickly. My right eye wasn’t very good with to begin with. The left eye I’m 20/60. So I can still read, it’s not easy and I need good lighting, but I can still read.”
Rick moved back to Saskatoon twelve years ago to be closer to his family. He started off in a care home and had a very positive experience. The woman who ran the home “was just a tremendous lady,” says Rick, “they had great food and she was very generous. If you did chores she paid you for chores, and the other guys were terrific. But then she retired and went out of business and I moved into The Lighthouse.”
Rick has been living at The Lighthouse for the last eight years in the Supported Living tower, “I’m sort of independent. I have a case worker and his name is Remy and he helps me out, say if I need furniture for my room he’ll find something for me.” He enjoys doing his own laundry and his medication is kept safe by staff at the front desk, “I go to the front desk in the morning and at supper time to pick up my medications and they’re good at having them ready for me and giving them to me promptly, so there’s no problem there.”
As for meal times, Rick has a fridge in his room where he can keep snacks or make a sandwich for himself if he doesn’t like what the cooks serve for dinner, but he still enjoys coming down to the dining hall to socialize. “They had barbeque chicken last week and it was tremendous. I had three pieces and I gave them praise,” he admits.
Last year, Rick moved into a newly renovated room in the Supported Living tower. With help from many generous donors The Lighthouse has been renovating numerous aspects of their facility over the last few years. This has had a major impact on the lives of the people who make The Lighthouse their home.
“My old room that I was in for almost seven years was probably the worst room in the Lighthouse. I couldn’t open the window and it was just terrible,” says Rick, “My room now has a beautiful window and sunshine. Once I get a rolling chair I can roll around, stare out the window and talk to my friends. Remy is helping with that, so it’s good to have a case manager who looks out for you. My guy is alright, he’s pretty good.”
The Lighthouse is still raising donations to continue the renovation of rooms in the Supported Living Tower. If you’d like to make a difference in someone’s life please visit www.lighthousesaskatoon.org and make a donation today!
That’s the night folks in Saskatoon will join thousands of others in 75 cities across Canada in “The Coldest Night of the Year”, a 2, 5 and 10 km winter walk-a-thon in support of the hungry, homeless and hurting.
In Saskatoon, we’ll be walking for The Lighthouse Supported Living and The Bridge Fellowship Centre.
The Lighthouse provides housing for anyone in need of a place to call home by the operation of a men’s and women’s emergency shelter, supported living suites and affordable, independent apartments. The Lighthouse also operates a Mobile Outreach Service and a Community Kitchen Meal Program to help street entrenched individuals in our community. The Bridge serves the homeless and/or poor in our community by providing fellowship, clothing, food and household essentials, all supported by a dedicated group of volunteers and staff.
Our goal in the WALK is to raise $50,000 on February 20th with the support of 40 teams and 250 walkers. We are looking for:
Sponsorship: First, we are still looking for a Lead Sponsor for $5,000 this year.
With 200 walkers and over $46,000 raised last year, this year we are anticipating an even greater response for our third year!
Participation: Second, would you also consider engaging the WALK by registering a team and recruiting employees to walk and raise money with us that night?
The WALK is something special. It’s fun, challenging and meaningful. The Lighthouse and The Bridge are also something special and its work and service in our community are essential. Please consider joining us by walking and sponsoring this great event.
And remember, it’s cold out there.
Saskatoon Event Director
Note: The Coldest Night of the Year is operated under the charitable and financial oversight of Blue Sea Philanthropy, (BSP). BSP is a public Canadian foundation registered with with CRA as of May 31, 2012. All event management and operational oversight is provided by BSP – our charitable number is: CRA – 819882655RR0001