Board Member, 2008 – 2009
I am a pharmacist and have served Guelph for the past 34 years. Over those years I worked as a traditional pharmacist, filling prescriptions for customers and giving advice when asked. I would never have guessed that I would be doing what I do today with Stonehenge Therapeutic Community – let me tell you how it happened.
By chance, about 10 years ago, I was chatting with a customer at the pharmacy one day. We were talking about supports for people with addictions. I shared my thoughts with him: that I envisioned a community where people who had experienced addictions could live and work together to better their lives and find ways to live safe from drugs and alcohol and the toll that it had taken on them.
I didn’t realize it then, but this customer was a member of the Board of Directors at Stonehenge Therapeutic Community (STC). He invited me to lunch with Heather Kerr, the Executive Director. I told her my thoughts. Soon I was invited to join the Board and there I learned what STC was all about. Soon after joining the Board, we began work of making the vision of addiction supportive housing a reality.
Stonehenge had discussed housing options for many years, struggling with the homelessness of the clients who came through their programs. So often people would come to treatment at Stonehenge from a local shelter, and after working courageously on their recovery in the program, would sadly return to the shelter without options for more permanent housing. Funding was always an issue but in 2010 the vision started to become a reality.
We worked together to develop a plan. We visited Wayside House in Hamilton to explore their innovation in housing stock with local real estate agents. With private funding we were able to test the “Wayside model” in a home on College Avenue – we called it Edinburgh Place. Realizing success of this model we were able to open a second home, Sidney House. To do this we secured support from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) through the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integrated Network for 24 beds in Guelph in partnership with the Community Mental Health Association – Waterloo Wellington (CMHA-WW).
Edinburgh Place and Sidney House have changed lives. For many it is a safe place to “pause” while learning to transfer recovery skills from treatment into community living. For others it’s a place to have the support of those with lived experience to both challenge and support recovery until it becomes internalized. Often family and friends reunite. Sometimes it is a place of struggle.
The housing program has also become a fertile ground for community building. A new partnership has been struck with the Harvest Market in Guelph. With lots of cooperative team work, the garden at Edinburgh Place supplies the market and in return people in housing use the Market for fresh vegetables.
Now six years later, Edinburgh Place and Sidney House continue to support people who have struggled with addiction and mental illness to live in a supported environment.
Since starting to work with STC, I continue to learn about addictions – about its impact on lives and the strength of people who are affected by addictions and those that work with them toward recovery. I have become even more involved over the years; now acting as the STC pharmacist and working with clients directly. I am both humbled and privileged to do this work – seeing real change and possibilities for those along their journey.
You never know how a chance meeting can change a life. Mine certainly changed after a chance meeting with a Stonehenge Board member.