Mary’s Place provides support to women who are seeking an environment that supports sobriety while they transition from homelessness to independent living. This “high barrier” program provides an alternative to low barrier environments such as those at Martha’s place, and other Nanaimo supportive housing buildings.
Transitional housing is effective for many people who need a small amount of support to make changes in their life that they have already identified and committed to. These changes include:
- Personal growth goals
- Lifestyle changes
- Developing new techniques and strategies for maintaining mental health and stability
Examples of ways to attain these changes include:
- Regular attendance at groups for substance use
- Therapist sessions
- Participation in workshops, seminars, government programs
- Training by non-profit groups in the community
- Education upgrading and formal career-related programs
The length of stay at Mary’s Place generally ranges from 30 days to 2 or 3 years.
Since Mary’s Place is lightly staffed and a “dry” environment, the criteria for placement includes a commitment to a recovery-focused lifestyle. No alcohol or other substances are allowed in the building and residents must commit to sobriety. If a resident finds they need more support, they can be temporarily transferred to an emergency shelter bed or can apply to Martha’s Place.
“Therapeutic community” describes a group-based approach to long-term mental health that encourages participation by clients and workers together in the creation of a healthy environment where growth and healing can occur. The approach is usually residential with the clients and staff living together in the same house but, in the case of Mary’s Place, funding does not yet allow staff to reside at the home. Instead they visit daily. The therapeutic community “movement” is based on aspects and principles of milieu therapy, and includes group therapy as well as practical activities. Milieu is a word of French origin that refers to the many and subtle factors in a person’s environment.
It is used in this context to describe approaches that look at a person’s surroundings more than at their illness. It focuses on creating and exploiting positive factors in the environment rather than focus on medicines and treatment.
In the case of Mary’s Place, the Milieu is a residential neighbourhood in North Nanaimo which allows residents to walk to a wide variety of amenities and feel part of the community. Living with four other people in a large well-appointed house creates a feeling of safety and an opportunity for healthy interaction and socialization. Living with people also involves conflicts and disagreements and Outreach Workers provide objective de-briefing and group facilitation to allow residents to develop methods for getting along.
Referrals are also made for residents and Outreach Workers and management staff support residents to connect with resources in the community including the food bank, government offices, and medical appointments.