Fast Facts

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  • 4,142 unique clients accessed the Emergency Voucher Program in 2016-17.

  • 204,375 nutritious meals served in 2016-17.

  • Five branches devote to 100% hope…more than a shelter.

  • 31,355+ volunteer hours donated in 2016-17.

  • 6,852 accommodated stays in Crashbed Program 2016-17.


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Everybody Has A Story

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“FOR MONTHS AFTERWARD I had difficulty making eye contact with people.” This was one of the results of a social experiment where two men spent up to six months on the streets of several major American cities. Panhandling, dumpster diving, sleeping rough and sleeping in shelters; they found that not many people were willing to make eye contact with them. It seemed like a form of depersonalization – sometimes unintentional and sometimes intentional to the effect of, “If I don’t look, maybe they are not there or maybe I won’t have to engage.”

At the Men’s Mission it’s difficult to be anything but personal. In fact some encounters mean that you get to know clients; their stories can be so personal that it hurts in the emotional sense.

Our friend at the Men’s Mission was born in September 1940 in Spain. He served in North Africa in the military and began his journey into the priesthood, only to be pulled back to other commitments closer to home. Eventually, he immigrated to Canada where he ventured into the construction industry and ended up in housekeeping maintenance at one of the major hospitals in London.

All of the above ‘facts’ of the story, and even the troubles that brought him to the Men’s Mission for the first time nearly 29 years ago, are the stock and trade of collecting information about the people who come into our branch. There are times when there is more information and times when there is less. However for this friend, it was all about the man who we encountered on a day to day basis; the everyday conversations, the wonderful personality spilling out on to us.

Our friend lived in the Roger Smith Wing of the Men’s Mission (for longer term stays) and it became his home. When he died recently, he was not homeless. He was a man who was loved, befriended and now dearly missed. We couldn’t avoid eye contact with him. It was never anything but personal.

 



IMG_20150921_144843_womanBWLIVING IN A basement apartment with her two year old son, Alicia was behind on her rent. Afraid of the future, but not willing to give up, she made the decision to seek support from Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter. It wasn’t an easy decision. And it wasn’t one she wanted to make. However, she realized that, as a parent, it was one she had to make.

Rotholme offers emergency shelter to families of all shapes and sizes. Walking through the doors for the first time, with a child in tow, takes a lot of courage. “When I got there I wasn’t happy,” says Alicia. “Within 24 hours, it was better though. I met some of the other moms. There were good people there. My son and I weren’t alone. We adjusted.”

Housing Stability workers help clients assess their needs for housing and next steps. “I met with Mary-Jo. I was angry and she knew it. She hit the nail on the head with my situation from the start.”

Mary-Jo (see more on page two) worked on priorities with Alicia: sorting out finances, catching up on rent owed, and finding subsidized housing. Fortunate timing meant that Alicia could move into a two-bedroom town house in just under three weeks.

Six months later, Alicia continues to work on creating a stable life as a single parent. With Mary-Jo’s help, she developed a file folder system to hold important documents to help pay bills on time and run a smooth household. She acknowledges a gain in confidence to venture outside of her home. This includes making trips to do grocery shopping, taking her son to the park, and learning her neighbourhood.

Alicia will continue to have weekly home visits with Mary-Jo for another year, and sees a clear benefit in doing so. “It’s been really helpful. Absolutely. I think without her coming to see me every week, this would have been super overwhelming…new everything. Iwould have been lost. I would have been right back where I was.”

Looking to the future, Alicia’s goals are to complete her GED (General Education Diploma) to earn an Ontario High School Equivalency Certificate, and then pursue a career related to animal care. She knows she has some work ahead of her, however she is quick to say that she is closer to getting there than she ever was before.

 



IMG_20150320_132639bwcropMEL GREW UP in a household in London where social drinking among extended family was frequent. It was part of life and he joined in at an early age with his brothers. Soon he began drinking at high school dances and with friends on a regular basis.

It didn’t take long to get into trouble and he became well known by the police. He attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but ended up socializing and drinking afterwards with other attendees.

“Rock bottom is different for everyone,” says Mel. He remembers when he reached his. His mother was in hospital dying from cancer. He was on his way to visit her when he became sidetracked, went drinking with a friend and forgot about the hospital. The next day she passed away and Mel was devastated.

“I was drinking when I decided to stop for good. That was my last. I went to the Men’s Mission to stay, but they couldn’t accept me because of my state. So I went to the Salvation Army for a few nights and then I stayed with family members who helped me stay out of trouble.” Mel met with a counsellor at Addiction Services Thames Valley and asked to be enrolled in the 28-day program in St. Thomas.

Near the end of the program, Mel knew he was far from done. He asked his after-care worker about getting more help. He stayed at the Men’s Mission in London for a few weeks until a spot became available at Quintin Warner House residential addiction treatment program, a branch of Mission Services of London.

“Phase one of the program was tough for me. I wanted to leave, but the guys in my group said I needed to stay. In phase two, I gave it 100%.”

In group sessions, Mel talked about his guilt over not seeing his mother before she died. Participants suggested he write her a letter. He did, but they said it wasn’t good enough. He tried again, a little harder this time, and brought the letter to her grave site, after which he felt a burden had lifted.

Mel graduated from the Quintin Warner House program in fall 1990 with family by his side including his dad
who remarked how proud he was of Mel’s accomplishment. “He had me crying,” said Mel.

Since then, Mel returns to Quintin Warner House every Thursday afternoon to support men in the program by playing games and talking about his experience to encourage them. This is appreciated by residents and staff. Mel wants to help others because he hasn’t forgotten those who helped him and how his life has changed for the better.  “When you know something’s wrong, you do something about it and then you can take pride in that.”

 



ABOUT FOUR MONTHS ago, Lisa (name has been changed) was being discharged from Victoria Hospital, part of London Health Sciences Centre, when her social worker provided an option. Lisa had the choice of receiving assistance from a Transitional Case Manager (TCM) from the Community Mental Health Programs (CMHP) branch at Mission Services of London. Engagement with the TCM service is completely voluntary.

Our TCMs are a team of four connected to a greater crisis services continuum within London Middlesex. They are tasked with engaging, connecting and assisting individuals who frequent Emergency Departments or Hospital In-Patient Health Services. They help people who are orphaned from primary health care service, or those experiencing a mental health crisis without connection to resources. For engagements up to nine weeks, TCMs assist individuals with accessing health, mental health, addiction, housing and social services, resulting in fewer admissions to hospital while providing needed support.

Woman“I was happy to be connected to Sharon on the TCM team who helped me with a number of things,” says Lisa. “I had lost my T4 slips. Sharon knew to call Revenue Canada. She took me to the government office and we got the paperwork done. When I needed to contact the hydro company to get that working again, she found the correct number for me to call. She took me to the London Food Bank and to the food program at the Salvation Army. Now I know where to go and which bus to take.”

The Mission Store thrift store has a Voucher Program enabling referred clients to obtain items without cost. “I was able to get a coat, boots, pants and sweaters—all things I needed,” says Lisa.

Lisa is now connected to services through CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) Middlesex including their Community Programs for life skills and social interaction. “I’m a people person so I’m really excited about the program,” says Lisa. She is also on a waiting list for their Intensive Case Management one to one support.

“I’m glad I received assistance from a TCM. I wouldn’t have known about the various community services and how to access them. If someone has the choice for this help, I would tell them to say yes.”

 



WHEN HE FIRST came to the Men’s Mission & Rehabilitation Centre on York Street almost seven years ago, Scott* said that he had nowhere else to go. “I didn’t feel that it was a place for me because I had worked and held jobs. In my mind, I had a pre-judged idea of people who came to the Mission, and it wasn’t me. I was in one spot and those guys were in another. But there I was.”

The Men’s Mission has 111 emergency shelter beds for homeless men age 16 years and over. In addition, the Roger Smith Wing is a residence with 35 private rooms for longer term transitional accommodation that is paid for by clients through their sources of income. Scott has been able to find stability at the Men’s Mission by staying in a private room, accessing support services and being part of the In-Shelter Work Program.

MMLawn22sept2014bw“I help with grounds keeping at the Men’s Mission. I used to like it, now I love it. I cut grass and do some extra duties; I’m happy to do them. I pick up garbage on all sides of the building two or three times a day. I don’t want anyone walking by to have to see garbage. I also shovel the walkways. I earn a stipend for my work, but it’s no longer just about the money. I take pride in it. I want to do the best job that I can. Our grounds are cleaner; I’ve played a part in that.”

All clients meet with an In-Shelter Case Worker; there are three on staff. They are there to provide support with what clients want to work on, and help link them with community resources and other services.

“I’ve had two Case Workers. They are both very knowledgeable. They make time for me, answer my questions, and remind me of my appointments.” Scott says this helps him stay on track. With assistance, he is looking into housing options outside of the Men’s Mission.

“Since I first came here, my perception has changed—a lot. It’s made a difference being here. I feel fortunate to have been helped by the Mission. Others have helped too, like the couple who brings sandwiches Monday nights. I understand better that I AM someone who can be here. I could be just about anyone.” His last comment about sharing his experience with others was, “I feel honoured to be able to.”

 



AT 17, MELISSA was on a destructive path and described herself as a ‘troubled teen.’  “I was partying a lot back then and had no direction.” On two occasions she spent a few weeks at Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter, in addition to couch surfing. “I kept thinking about why I wasn’t happy and why I didn’t feel good about myself.”

Not able to have a dog as a child, she changed that in 1998 by getting a four-legged friend. She did some training with her pet for fun, and then got the chance to apprentice and learn how to become a dog trainer. Melissa recalls her career turning point while bartending in Toronto in 2004.

“This woman arrived with a broken boot heel. I gave her an extra pair I had that fit her, and told her to return them later. She did, and hidden inside them were a thank you note and a necklace. She wrote that the necklace brought her luck, and she hoped it would do the same for me.”

Melissa’s determination to pursue her dream of entrepreneurship took off from there.  She kept the necklace as a reminder to be a good person and do good deeds whenever possible.

Barking up the right tree. Melissa and dog

Melissa went on to launch her dog training school in London, “In Dogs We Trust.” With her positive reinforcement methodologies, Melissa helps hundreds of family pets and their owners each year. She holds training workshops for professionals in the pet industry including Veterinary Technicians and Service Dog Trainers. Each month she advises staff and volunteers at the London Humane Society, where her black lab Sophia was rescued.

Melissa shares her expertise on radio and TV, and is the host of “Doggy House Calls” on Rogers Cable 13. She is also the founder of the ‘Ultimutts’ dog show where her dogs charm and entertain audiences with feats such as tightrope walking, skateboarding, skipping, cue card reading and more.

Fifteen years after staying at Rotholme, Melissa returns there on Sundays so that residents can see her dogs perform and interact with them.

“The positive energy that the dogs bring is unmistakable. They clearly enjoy their time with the families and as working performance dogs, they should use their talent for more than monetary gain. Not only is volunteering good for the dogs, I can only hope that the families get as much out of it. For me, it’s the feeling of making the world a better place by sharing my passion with others. Visiting Rotholme also helps me remember a difficult time in life and shows me how far I have come through hard work. It is beautiful to see everyone appreciate the dogs, and to share something so special with my daughter, Sienna.”

Learn more about Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter.

(Story from Curb Notes July 2014 – cover)

Melissa of In Dogs We Trust



JAZMYNE FINISHED SHARING her story with a smile. Bright sun streamed in from the window behind her. Her whole face lit up.  When we wrote this article in January 2014, Jazmyne was a student at Everest College in the Addictions and Community Services program near the end of her studies. She was thrilled to be completing a placement with Community Mental Health Programs (CMHP) through Mission Services of London. “I understand what clients are going through because I’ve been there myself,” she says.

Eight years ago Jazmyne had a very different life.  At 17 she moved out of the house and dropped out of high school. She was in a relationship and they both started using drugs all the time. She was constantly being evicted for not paying rent. “All my money went to my addiction,” she said.

In January 2007 she had a daughter, and six months later her mom and dad discovered that Jazmyne was battling addiction. Her parents went to court to receive full custody and would allow access only if she could produce a clean drug test. “There wasn’t much hope of that with me becoming an IV drug user and bouncing in and out of jail.”

Fearing that her lifestyle would lead to death, Jazmyne reached out to Rob at Streetscape – a program for individuals in crisis as part of CMHP. On Dec. 24, 2008 she entered Turning Point recovery home in London. She became clean and was able to see her daughter. She was in a new relationship and had a son in Sept. 2009.

Life was fairly stable even though she drank socially with her boyfriend. In July 2011, however, her world spun out of control again. Her son was put into foster care and she had to face up to another addiction—alcohol. “I didn’t have much left. And I didn’t want my children to have this kind of life.” 

Again, Jazmyne turned to Mission Services to get help and find treatment. “I relied on Crashbeds (emergency shelter at CMHP) as a place to go; they became like a family. I received a lot of support from other women at the 12-Step meetings I attended. Also, I knew that unless I went back to school a turn-around wasn’t going to happen for me, so I enrolled in college.”

Jazmyne now has a happy with her son at home, and her daughter who lives with her mom a few dooJazmyne photo for Curb Notesrs down. Maintaining stability is something she has to work on continually. She gives a lot of credit to her mom, saying, “She is a constant support; she never gave up on me.”

Learn more about Community Mental Health Programs.

(Story from Curb Notes January 2014 – cover)



Six years ago, Camille was enjoying what promised to be an amazing life.  Five months pregnant and reunited with her first love, all was as it should be.  At that blessed time, she had no idea that things were about to change forever.  “He was the love of my life,” says Camille.  “When he came back into my life, my children finally had their Dad back,” she remembers.  “I knew it was meant to be.”  But, in a flash, it was gone. 

One morning, Camille stood in her kitchen, preparing the family meal, when a neighbour burst through the door.  “She told me my husband had been stabbed,” she says.  “It was like a movie.  Everything went numb.”  Camille’s husband had been killed in a senseless altercation.  A ‘the wrong place at the wrong time’ situation that forever changed her amazing life.  “Through it all, I remained strong,” she says.  She had to.

After a violent end to her happily ever after, Camille returned to London to be near family.  “I got a job in a restaurant, but I just couldn’t deal with my grief,” she recalls. “Everybody handles grief a different way and I just…didn’t.”

Camille forged on, settling into her new job but in a terrible twist of fate, a customer suffered a fatal heart attack during her shift.  It pushed Camille into a place of unbelievable stress.  “I repressed so much emotion and I just kept pushing it down,” she says.  Yet, she still had bills to pay and children to raise, including two teenage sons.  “I just couldn’t make ends meet,” she says.  “My rent was insane, I had growing mouths to feed and my son was having his own problems with drugs.”  She remained focused, knowing she would do whatever she could to keep her family together. 

Soon, she couldn’t hold on any longer.  She went to Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter.  “I knew they’d help me get on my feet,” she explains.  “They took us in, and the stress came right off of my shoulders.” The case workers helped Camille apply for subsidized housing, update her health cards and schedule medical checkups for her and her family.  “There’s no judgement here,” she says.  “They’ve encouraged me to be productive and hopeful,” she says.

Camille has secured subsidized housing and is poised to return to work in the near future.  “God brought me to this place,” she says with a smile.  “Everything is going to be alright.”

For more information about Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter click HERE



 When Louis opens his mouth to speak, you listen.  His soothing baritone calms the listener from his first word.  “My father was my best friend, growing up,” he begins.  “I have so many great memories of that man.” 

Mixed with those joyful memories –  the fishing trips, the Sunday brunches after church, tinkering with old cars – there were painful memories too. 

Louis’ parents were both alcoholics, living in an environment where getting drunk was the norm. “When I was seventeen, my mother began sending me to the liquor store for sherry,” he recalls.  “As a reward, she’d give me some.” 

Thus began a pattern of drinking which lasted nearly 45 years.  Louis became a husband, a father, and successful businessman but through it all, he drank.  “I hid it from my wife,” he says. “But, that didn’t last.”  Soon, the wife and the children were gone but still, he drank.  Jobs came and went, his health suffered but through it all, he drank. “I was always thinking about tomorrow,” he recalls.  “Where will I get that bottle? What if I run out?”

Finally, through the intervention of his daughter, he took the first steps toward recovery. “My daughter put her arms around me and lifted me out the door. I couldn’t even walk,” he remembers. “The doctor said if she hadn’t brought me in, I would have died.” Louis’ smooth, velvet voice cracks just a bit when he remembers the most important people in his life: his children. “They saved me,” he says. “Through all this, they never abandoned me.” 

Soon, Louis found himself at the steps of Mission Services of London’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre: Quintin Warner House. “This program is unbelievable,” Louis raves.  “I still had so much heavy guilt and shame.  The counselors helped me work through all that.” 

With tears in his eyes, he recalls the letters he received, while in treatment, from his children.  “Until then, I’d never faced how much I’d hurt them,” he admits.  “I became so in touch with my feelings, it completely changed me.  It opened a door in my mind.”

Louis is coming up on one year sobriety.  He graduated from Quintin Warner House and moved to the Annex – an aftercare facility focused on easing the transition into sober living in society.  With his compassionate nature and soothing voice, it’s no surprise to find he is now working for a large communications corporation yet still finds time to mentor current residents of Quintin Warner House.  “My purpose is to help people as much as I can,” he says.  “I’m the story of the guy who had no hope, who felt like he was in the dark. Now, because of [Quintin Warner House] I am where I want to be.”  Louis proudly maintains an extraordinary relationship with his children. “Look to the future,” he says with a broad smile. “That’s what I always say.”

Look to the future.

For more information about Quintin Warner House click HERE



“You know what they say about excuses? Everybody has one.” says Harold, a resident at Quintin Warner House.  Wise words.  With a shaved head, tattoos and a stocky build, Harold would be perfectly cast in the role of hardened drug addict.  His story however, is far from that.

Growing up in a prominent Toronto family, Harold wanted for nothing.  He traveled often, had the clothes, the car, the money and the prestige.  “I had a good life up until 15 years ago,” he says.  Although Harold’s situation seemed idyllic from the outside, he was masking a lot of pain.  “I was the guy with so much hurt, guilt and shame,” he explains.  “I had a knot buried deep inside me and I didn’t know to deal with it.” As a young boy and even as a teenager, Harold could easily bury all those feelings and continue to lead his privileged Toronto life.  But, as he got older, the everyday stresses that come with manhood began to take their toll.  “The pain just took over.” he says. Harold soon found himself with a wife and a young baby to provide for.  It became harder and harder to bury this lifetime of hurt.  When he was no longer able to bury his feelings, he turned to drugs.

At 25 years old, Harold began buying Percocet on the street.  Percs as they’re called are a mixture of acetaminophen and oxycodone which are prescribed by doctors to relieve severe physical pain.  Like many users, Harold found it easy to buy percs on the street so it wasn’t long before this was a regular weekend habit.  “Soon, the pills weren’t enough,” he recalls.  “I started doing cocaine but I kept telling myself it was just a fun thing to do on the weekend.  It’s really easy to justify what you’re doing and keep lying to yourself,” he says. 

 Harold’s life soon began spiraling out of control.  He tried rehab but it didn’t stick.  The death of his beloved uncle as well as infidelity within his marriage continued to plague his attempts at recovery.  “At my uncle’s funeral, my son didn’t want to talk to me,” Harold remembers. “He said: Go get help and when you get help, call me.”  Harold leans back and lays his forearms on his chair.  One can’t help but notice the solitary words, in bold black ink, permanently etched into his skin: Willingness on the left arm, Acceptance on the right.  He closes his eyes for a moment and recalls the conversation two years ago with his son.  “That was the best thing that could have happened,” he remembers.  Harold began treatment programs in Toronto which led him to Quintin Warner House.  “This place has helped me open my eyes to things I never wanted to see before,” he says.  “They help you take a good hard look at all that pain.”  Harold graduated on September 14th, and will continue his recovery within the Aftercare Program.  He has been working on getting his high school diploma and has goals of becoming a social worker, helping kids stay on the right path. “Nobody stands up at the front of the class and says: I want to be a drug addict,” he says.  “If I can help those who are suffering work through their feelings instead of turning to drugs, that would be the best thing I could do.”

Harold maintains regular contact with his son and is learning how to communicate with family members in a positive way.  “I have a great loving relationship with my son now,” he says. A smile spreads across Harold’s face as he speaks of the second chance he’s been given to be a father to his son.  “Everyone is on this path for different reasons,” he says. “I’m living my own choices now, and they are the best choices of my life.” 

For more information on Quintin Warner House click HERE or call: 519 434 8041



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Mission Services of London opens doors of hope with compassion for those seeking emergency shelter and support, by offering safe shelter, food, clothing and rehabilitation.

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