How Scott Mission’s Counselling Program Provides Long-Term Help.
Steve, 52, was a regular at our hot meal program. He was homeless for seven years, spending many winters on the streets, but avoided shelters because he felt alienated, misunderstood, and his mental health had suffered. Our frontline staff greeted him daily, getting to know a little bit about him and his needs. He was slow to trust, but meeting with our Case Management worker built connection, and they helped him access housing. Getting into full-time housing provided the stability necessary to begin counselling so deeper healing could take place. Here at Scott Mission, our goal is to go on a journey with all our neighbours that begins with meeting immediate needs and ends with a life transformed, and counselling is central to that goal. But this is not an easy task, made more difficult by Canada’s mental health crisis.
Recent studies show that 50 percent of Canadians will experience some form of mental illness by the age of 40.1 Wait times for free or cost-accessible counselling are long, and fee-based counselling is expensive, putting it out of reach for the most vulnerable. Poverty and mental illness are among the leading contributors to homelessness, addiction, and broken lives across our city, and for those living in poverty, a mental health crisis can be the last straw between stability and homelessness.
According to The Mental Health Commission of Canada, 25-50% of the homeless population suffer from mental illness(es).2 Mental illness can be triggered or exacerbated by the stressful living conditions of being homeless. Additionally, those that suffer from mental illness are more at risk of becoming homeless. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation estimated in 2005 that 27% of all people with mental illness live in inadequate living conditions – meaning they are at risk of losing housing or are housed in unsafe situations.3
Scott Mission, recognizing the gap between need and availability, began a counselling pilot program in 2021. In 2022, the program expanded, serving 26 clients. A new counsellor, specializing in addictions, has joined in January 2023, allowing for more specialized services and expanding the program further. Counselling, and the healing that comes with it, is a crucial step in the long-term transformation the Mission desires for our neighbours in need.
“Counselling can play an important role in providing support by walking alongside the client wherever they are on their journey of recovery” says Calvin Lau, Scott Mission’s new Addiction and Recovery Counsellor. “Being a compassionate counsellor that listens in a nonjudgmental manner is key, especially with the stigma of mental illness and addictions that the clients/guests experience on top of dealing with homelessness and a lack of basic needs.”
And we are seeing results. Counselling clients have reported:
• Increased stability in their spiritual, mental, emotional, relational, and physical wellbeing.
• Fresh insights, personal management skills, and collaborative solutions.
• Healthy coping mechanisms and behavioural strategies to manage thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviours pertaining to core issues.
• A greater understanding of themselves in relation to each other, our society, and to God.
• A reduction in psychiatric symptoms and hospital admissions.
• Improved overall quality of life amid a community of compassion, concern, and care.
“For us, it’s not just about providing services or meeting immediate needs – our goal is to transform lives, says Peter Duraisami, CEO of Scott Mission. “The people who come to us are often struggling with brokenness and despair; they feel isolated and need more than just a meal. They need to experience the love of Christ and be equipped with tools that can help them overcome life’s obstacles, leading to total transformation. This is what we do – this is who we are called to be.”
Your support directly impacts our ability to offer these life-changing services. Steve’s story highlights the importance of each of Scott Mission’s services. He was introduced to the Mission through regular hot meals – a life-saving service for those living rough on the streets. Life-changing programs like case management and counselling helped him access housing supports and are providing further healing, but we can’t do it alone. We need people to partner with us to give all our neighbours a chance to embark on this journey of transformation. To join with us on this journey, please visit www.scottmission.com/donate to donate today.