Can you imagine experiencing homelessness while suffering from a life-threatening illness like cancer? It seems unimaginable, but this was the reality for a London man who we came to know through Streetscape, an outreach program of Community Mental Health Programs (CMHP).
As an initial step, the Streetscape team helped him access shelter at Men’s Mission. Once he had a safe place to rest, he began attending health appointments including chemotherapy. A Streetscape team member went along to his appointments to provide support while also helping him search for stable housing, apply for income support, and look for a job.
Over the winter, this gentleman found a job that he enjoys, moved into an apartment, and has
recovered from cancer. His valiant efforts led him to achieve a different tomorrow.
That is what CMHP is all about. Our goal is to walk alongside individuals experiencing homelessness or struggling with mental health and addiction issues to help them achieve their self-identified goals.
“Our CMHP staff know how to help people prevent further crisis… When we help others restart, we not only help the individuals but we help the entire community,” said Jennifer Vale, Director of Community Mental Health and Addiction Programs.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, CMHP has had to operate differently to accommodate
public health guidelines. This has meant providing support through virtual means such as telephone,
text, email, and video calls. Since the start of the pandemic, the CMHP team resolved to continue helping those in need—no matter the challenges.
Moving toward electronic communication necessitated training in virtual care for clients. “People
can be more likely to share trauma through virtual communication but when we get off the phone, we don’t know who is in their house or what could trigger them. That’s where virtual training comes in—that’s why we have staff trained by experts in Canada in providing virtual care,” Jennifer explained.
Though virtual care has enabled outreach services to continue amidst the pandemic and, in some cases, has even helped clients open up, it can also present barriers. For example, some people experiencing homelessness or poverty do not have access to Wi-Fi, cell phones, or computers and are therefore unable to participate in virtual care.
“We will continue to be innovative to make sure we’re meeting the needs of our clients and the community,” said Jennifer. Innovation will require a balanced approach to care—one that offers virtual services as well as safe, in-person connections. “CMHP will continue serving people in the
community in an innovative way, wearing full PPE, and physically distancing. Sometimes that is a quick knock on the door, taking a step back, and saying ‘We want to let you know we care about you’, and that can help reengage the client with our services”.
Looking forward, Jennifer expects the need for CMHP services to rise as the pandemic continues to have a negative effect on mental health. “We can see an influx of people in mental health crises, and that will hit the system really hard,” she shared. CMHP is ready to meet this challenge and provide much-needed support through a balanced, creative approach to care for the most vulnerable members of the community.
Written by Amy Bumbacco, Communications & PR Coordinator