“EVERYONE HAS a different concept and idea of what homelessness is like – a different idea of what it’s like being at risk of homelessness. No one really chooses to be homeless. It’s just that they don’t know what their other options are” says Doug Nemeth, Program Coordinator for Mission Services of London’s Community Mental Health Programs (CMHP). Martha Connoy, Director of CMHP elaborates: “If you can imagine what it would be like not having a family, having no one, being
on your own and coming into a strange place, it’s difficult.”
And yet, that is the reality for many in the London area who seek assistance through the Crashbed Program at CMHP. They come to “the Crashbeds” as a last resort but there they find a kind word, safe shelter, access to showers and personal care items, nourishment and linkages to other service providers. They find staff willing to engage in conversations and to come alongside them to help them achieve a different future.
CMHP’s mandate is specifically focused on serving those who struggle with homelessness and also have a mental illness. The branch issues thousands of referrals to services in the community, walking with clients on their journey out of homelessness or crisis.
The Crashbed Program in particular is a safe haven for those who will not, or cannot, access other options within the emergency shelter system due to overloading or other special circumstances. With 11 beds for men and nine for women (gender segregated), the program opens its doors daily from 9:00 pm to 7:00 am, on a first-come first-served basis; it often acts as the only thing standing between a person and a long night on the street – one that may bring hypothermia, frostbite or even death in winter.
Through the support of community donations and government funding, the Crashbed Program provided 6,852 overnight stays for men and women during the past fiscal year. It continues
to be a beacon of hope for people like Ruthanne, who accessed a bed every night for a number of nights. Having nowhere else to turn, she welcomed the safety and support of “the Crashbeds.” It was this practical help and her dedication that enabled her to graduate from high school and to achieve a fresh start (which included a new apartment – space to call her own).
In November, the Fall Banquet & Silent Auction raised upwards of $126,000 to provide important basics for men and women accessing the Crashbed Program. Keynote speaker, Elizabeth Manley (Olympic & World Silver Medalist Figure Skater), shared her own lived experience with depression,
at the same time encouraging us all to continue breaking down barriers and stigma. “You can live a fulfilled life with a mental illness” she says.
by Ericka Ayala Ronson, Director of Development & Communications