A movie with friends, hanging out on game day – it’s the simple things that most people take for granted and fail to appreciate in life. For Elliot, he knows the value in these seemingly simple activities – the value in being able to go out with friends, or even hosting friends in his own home.
“I have some friends where I would always need to go to their places to watch a movie with them, but now they can come to mine.”
Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Elliot was living in a supportive housing unit, operated by Coast Mental Health Foundation, before applying for Supporting Tenants, Enabling Pathways (STEP). He lived and worked there for six years, and even when he went off his meds and became sick again, they made sure there was a place waiting for him once he was ready to move back in. He had a care team and the support services needed to help him manage his schizophrenia and recover his mental health and well-being.
“I’m doing a lot better in general, and the people at Coast could see this bit of independence growing and taking hold.”
As he continued to grow more independent, the team at Coast Mental Health recommended he take part in the STEP pilot project and move on to independent living. STEP supports self-identified individuals living in supportive housing to move to independent housing that may be market, shared or subsidized, depending on their needs and preferences. The project is helping 100 individuals with some of the financial burdens associated with moving. This includes covering the first and last month’s rent, helping to initially furnish an apartment for those who do not already have essentials of their own, and ensuring that financial assistance is available for any unexpected challenges along the way.
“At first, I was worried about changing my care team and needing to meet a new doctor, but I knew moving would give me more freedom. [STEP] was an opportunity to move on and live an independent life.”
While Elliot has his own support system and community through family and friends he’s met over the years, he feels that his new building, and STEP itself, is working to provide another local community for participants and residents.
“Everyone is so nice. The cleaning lady says ‘hi’ to me every morning. My new neighbours even helped me move in when they saw me in the hall! STEP, and the new rental opportunities really provide a welcoming community,” he says.
“It was such an overwhelming feeling to move in and see my new home – just happiness and gratefulness. I’m glad I have this place to heal.”
The independent housing is less restrictive – Elliot has his own apartment – and there’s more freedom to invite his friends and family over for dinner or a movie, or even to stay for a day or two.
“My daughter came to visit from California – she’s going to university there. When she came, she was able to stay the night! She normally needs to stay with her grandmother,” his face lights up and his eyes crinkle as he smiles at the memory.
No longer needing to worry about not having somewhere to go, Elliot feels the stability has improved his mental health and allowed him to have a more positive outlook. He hopes to return to his contract work – street cleaning, as well as continuing to volunteer for a local mailroom.
“It’s good to have something to do, to get out of the house,” Elliot says. “The work means I can have more independence, and it’s nice to have the extra bit of pocket change to be able to do some of the things I want to do.”
He can play golf with friends, or buy a ticket to a sports game. He has recently become vegan, and cooks with his friends; making paneer hotdogs and other vegetable-based dishes. He has also started to reconnect with his First Nations heritage.
“I want to save, and maybe buy a vehicle so I can travel a bit. My friends travel to the First Nations community, and I’m learning the traditional songs, including the drum. I’m looking for a vegan drum with a good sound right now,” Elliot says.
Grateful for STEP, Elliot has been able to focus on the most important things in his life – enjoying the simple things and spending more time with the people closest to him.