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Chilliwack Program Supports People Towards Mental Wellness

Avery has a warm smile and a firm handshake. He’s a soft-spoken, gentle person who loves music, hanging out with his friends, watching hockey or cheering on the Whitecaps. He’s living a healthy life now but it hasn’t always been this good for him. Avery has lived with schizophrenia since he was 18 years old. It has cost him a lot – his car, his house, his job, his family. But much of this has been restored to him because of the Communitas Transitional Living Program (TLP) in Chilliwack.

“TLP has made a big difference to me,” he says. “I wanted to be secluded and to hide away but TLP helped me to be active, to have a community of people. Now I have a job, I have an apartment and a good friends who live in the same building. I also see my daughter regularly.”

TLP supports people as they pursue their mental health recovery goals and make the transition to independent living within their community. Participants come to the program by referral from Chilliwack Mental Health. Ruth Hoxie, who currently manages the TLP program and has worked in mental heal for 15 years, says that it came about as a result of a gap in services.

“People who were coming out of residential programs were not finding the support they needed to help them integrate back into the community,” she says. “TLP helps them do that.”

The two year program provides one-on-one skills training, such as money management, medication administration, and work training, which are tailored to the individual needs of identified by each client. The goal is to provide people with choices for a healthy lifestyle and encourage positive social connections. Recreational activities, weekly meals and other group activities make such a difference to people that alumni of TLP continue to stay connected.

Jon is a TLP alumni who has lived most of his life with schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. TLP is a safe place for him.

“I belong here. People understand me,” he says. “A lot of people don’t understand me because mental illness has such a big stigma. But here it’s great.”

Grace agrees. The program has helped her to become independent and has given her an opportunity to give back to the community. Trained in the culinary arts, Grace uses her skills to cook nutritious, affordable meals for the group each week.

“This is a safe place for me,” she says. “People here have gone out of their way to include me.”

All the participants speak highly of Ruth and her team, describing them as people who live out a vocation rather than go to a 9-5 job.

“They go to work to change lives,” Grace says. “I see it every day. They believe that you matter.”

Ruth is encouraged to hear participants talk about the difference the program makes and she continues to look for ways to do more. While the program receives funding from Fraser Health, there are still needs that are not met. Proper nutrition make an enormous difference to people living with mental health challenges but so often they cannot afford good quality food. TLP receives some support from the community already – a farmer provides them with eggs, New Horizons provides canned and dry goods, and they get bread from Cobbs Bakery.

“I would love to supplement these efforts with a regular produce box that would give us fresh fruits and vegetables to offer our clients,” Ruth says.

Interested business owners or individuals who would like to support the Transitional Living Program can contact Ruth at 604-866-2531.