Ending the Vicious Circle of Homelessness, Mental Health and Addiction

Charity Spotlight: This post was provided by Karen Crowther, Executive Director of the Calgary Keys to Recovery Society, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.

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Clara’s Story

By fall 2011, Clara had hit rock bottom and was scared for her life.

Clara, an aboriginal woman with a tragic background, has lived on the streets of Calgary, Alberta for ten years. Within the span of her time on the streets, Clara lost custody of her children, has been physically assaulted, a victim of rape, and suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and has simply felt worthless. Like so many of those who struggle with addiction, Clara used alcohol to cope with her past and current circumstances. She is an alcoholic. After suffering yet another assault and waking up in the hospital with a broken ankle, Clara made the choice to turn her life around. She was accepted into a local 42 day addiction treatment centre for women, and for the first time in many years, she felt a glimmer of hope for her future.

Nine weeks after Clara made the decision to turn her life around, Clara was nearly finished treatment and petrified of what was to come once she walked out the doors of the treatment centre, a safe haven from life on the streets of Calgary. The other women in her treatment group were excited to be going home and practicing the tools they learned to maintain their sobriety. Clara should have been excited too — she had done well in treatment and was proud of her 52 days alcohol free. However, unlike the other women returning to their home and families, Clara would be discharged back to the violence, rampant drug and alcohol abuse, and desperation to survive each day living on the streets of Calgary.

Clara’s story is just one of hundreds the Calgary Keys to Recovery Society (also known as Keys to Recovery) has heard from individuals who are attempting to undertake positive steps to improve their personal quality of life afflicted by addiction and/or mental illness. The vicious cycle of homelessness, addiction, mental illness, and the reality of facing life on the streets upon the completion of their treatment cause those afflicted to feel defeated within the cyclical turmoil. Oftentimes they give up and quit the uphill battle to recovery. Quite often they die. Fortunately for Clara, Keys to Recovery was able to provide her with an apartment and intensive support to help her maintain her sobriety and housing, meaning Clara was not forced to return to the streets of Calgary after treatment.


The Keys to a New Beginning

Calgary Keys to Recovery Society provides safe, supportive, affordable, and permanent housing to adults just like Clara. Clients choose their home from our available single or double occupancy apartments, and once housed, we provide intensive support in their new homes to assist them on their road to sobriety. Some of the services we offer our clients include 24/7 crisis support; group and one-on-one relapse prevention support; cultural services such as Aboriginal sweats, healing circle, art groups, cooking classes, access to Elders, and smudging of new apartments; vocational support; support navigating the medical, mental health, financial, and justice system; move in support, including access to basic furniture and household items, groceries; social and independent living skills assistance; in addition to any other support they may need.

Calgary Keys to Recovery Society is an organization like no other. Research supports our belief which acknowledges a drug and/or alcohol relapse may simply be part of a person’s recovery journey. Unlike traditional residential addiction services, we do not discharge an individual who relapses. Instead, our case managers work alongside our clients to determine what they need to get their life back on track.


Clara’s Trek on the Uphill Battle to Recovery

During her time with us, Clara relapsed on numerous occasions and ended up losing four apartments. Each time we worked with her without passing judgement, relocated her to a new home, and helped her return to treatment. Her guilt and shame, however, caused her to avoid our case managers and on one occasion refused to open her apartment door. They persisted and spoke to her through her apartment door for over an hour and a half, assuring her that we would not give up on her recovery and simply wanted to help in any way she wanted. She eventually opened her door, and is now 24 months sober. Clara has her family back in her life and is healing from years of trauma. If we had chosen to give up on her, she would have returned to homelessness where she surely would have died from alcoholism.
We provided Clara the support she so desperately needed, and her progress on the road to recovery is nothing short of a miracle.

To learn more about Calgary Keys to Recovery, please visit their charity profile page >>>

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