Arrowhead Clubhouse, one of 35 programs operated by Sunshine Coast Community Services Society, offers members living with mental illness a safe space five days a week where they can find companionship, learn new skills, wash clothes, eat a healthy lunch for a dollar and receive donated items like clothing, toothpaste and household items.
There has been one pressing area for many years where clubhouse members have needed additional support: affordable housing. According to Foye Hatton, Project Lead at Arrowhead, approximately 20% of Arrowhead Clubhouse members are currently homeless. They live in tents, cars, RVs, boats, lean-tos and on the beach or in the woods. The living situations are unstable, potentially dangerous and without heat.
But that is about to change.
In May 2019, Raincity and BC Housing’s Rapid Response to Homelessness (RRH) program will be opening a new supportive housing development at 5656 Hightide Avenue in Sechelt.
The 40-unit building is operated by Raincity Housing and staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Each single-occupancy unit is a self-contained living space with approximately 210 square feet and includes a private bathroom with toilet, shower and sink as well as a kitchenette. In addition, there is a laundry facility and a daily meal provided to the 40 tenants at no additional charge.
Hatton says, “Many of our clubhouse members were skeptical about applying for a unit. Many felt they didn’t have a chance.” Staff helped members fill out the applications, wrote supporting letters outlining vulnerability and need, and offered encouragement to those who applied to be one of the 40 in the new supported housing units.
“And now, I take great pride in the fact that 26 of the 28 members who applied for the supported housing were accepted,” Hatton said. “And the hope of many of those who secured a unit is that they can now focus on finding stable employment.”
One member, Jonathan, who was selected as one of the 40 tenants, says of his soon-to-be residence, “The building is beautiful, it’s secure and I feel safe. To live in Sechelt is a privilege. I am going to work on getting a job next and then my own house.”
“Change happens slowly at Arrowhead. People and their situations rarely change dramatically overnight. It’s when you look back on the last year, or two, that you realize how much people’s mental health has improved or, unfortunately on occasion, regressed”, explains Hatton. “Of the many changes I have seen over the past two years working at Arrowhead, the RainCity supported housing project is definitely one where it will help create dramatic change in a very short period of time. More than ever I realize that stable housing is a core building block of good mental health and this project is one of the times that people’s lives will be changed and improved overnight”.
Another newly housed clubhouse member, George, said “I’m so excited. I had a really hard winter in the cold with no heating. It’s going to be so nice to have a warm little apartment. I’m finally inside.”
With 26 members safely housed, Arrowhead can continue to support its members in other essential ways. In 2017, with support from the Vancouver Foundation, Sunshine Coast Community Services and Arrowhead developed and implemented the SEED (Skills Enhancement for Employment and Development) project with the goal of creating positive work opportunities, to shift negative perceptions and increase the employability skills of adults living with mental illness.
In addition to SEED, clubhouse members have been given the opportunity to meet with an employment specialist on a weekly basis to work on their resumes or receive advice on interviews. To further job skills, the clubhouse provides free First Aid and Food Safe courses for the members.
In 2018, and with a gracious grant from Sunshine Coast Credit Union, Arrowhead Clubhouse launched the Employment Essentials Fund. This fund helps members of the Clubhouse, who have secured employment in our community, to purchase necessary items or tools for their job.
Change may happen slowly at Arrowhead, but the biggest change is the feeling of hope that permeates the clubhouse walls. And with hope, anything is possible.
Sunshine Coast Community Services and Arrowhead Clubhouse wish to thank RainCity and their dedicated staff for the amazing work they have done to see this project through to the completion.