A team of eight staff people from Sara Riel have been working at Ellice Place in the West End of Winnipeg since September, 2021. The building, managed by Manitoba Housing, is home to over 100 residents aged 55 and up, and nearly half of those residents also receive supports from Sara Riel.
“Many of our participants have mental health concerns such as schizophrenia,” explains Daniel Omolola, Team Lead for the site. “This is a community that loves to support each other and we’re here to help people be independent and make choices that are good and empowering for them. This is aligned with Sara Riel’s vision: helping people reach their full potential.”
Janet Layte, another Team Lead, shares the day-to-day routine for many participants. “The day starts with everyone gathering for breakfast,” she shares. “Then things like room checks and laundry can happen, depending on what kind of help a resident might need. We also have lunch and supper together, and support folks with medication or appointment reminders. There’s a lot of fun time together, too.”
When a new resident moves into the building and joins the Supportive Housing Program, their likes and dislikes are explored. “We ask them what kind of activities they want,” continues Omolola. “We run exercise classes, movie nights, game nights, colouring or art activities, and the biggest draw is bingo. We’re always open and listening to what they want: if someone comes up with an idea for a new activity, we try to make that happen for them.”
Layte confirms that the most important support of all is the simple act of being present. “We have an open-door policy and we spend a lot of time chit chatting,” she shares. “When I come in to start my shift, someone always comes to say hello, or to tell me about their night, or what they have planned for the day.”
Omolola, for his part, acknowledges that while Sara Riel staff are there to support the group, the participants already do a great job supporting each other. “Everyone knows everyone, and we’re trying to foster that sense of community,” he continues. “Mealtimes aren’t just about eating, they’re about making friends. These are often people who have had a tough time in life, but they want to help others, they want to know us, they want to be in community. They all have a lot to give.”
When asked what the general public should know about supporting people with mental health concerns, Omolola pauses before saying, “My main thought is that so many people here and out in the world are lonely. It’s a reminder to take care of your families, to visit and check in on each other. Be a part of your community if you can. We want to create a family-like environment here but it’s not family, in the end. I know people are busy and it can be hard to connect, but it really matters so much.”
He also suggests supports available through Sara Riel that help connect and support families as their loved one navigates schizophrenia. “We know not everyone knows what to do, but we can help you find a way forward, and there are no referrals required.” 1
Layte is proud of the community that has formed at Ellice Place and has a very simple measurement for whether the supportive housing program is a success: “The main thing here is seeing the participants moving forward in their journey, and seeing how happy they are,” she says. “Their happiness and their smiles meant everything to us.”
1 If you would like to know about support programs available at Sara Riel, please click here.