Calgary Keys to Recovery Society
Our Story Why We Exist
My name is Clara and I am an aboriginal woman. I suffered years of abuse in my childhood. Both of my parents were alcoholics and would leave me and my siblings for days at a time. Starting when I was about 8 years old, when my parents took off, I had to look after my sisters who were 5 and 6 years younger than me. When my parents were home, they were physically and verbally abusive. I was molested many times by relatives and friends of my parents. At 14 years old, I left home and moved in with a 23 year old man that I met at a dance. He was just like my parents, although there were times that I thought he loved me. During the 8 years with him, I had 3 children, 2 girls and a boy. They were my world and I vowed not to be like my parents. But, like others who have addiction and mental health issues, I started to use alcohol to cope. My worst fear had come true…I became my parents.
When I was 22, my sister took my children with the promise that once I got my life together, I could have them back. I was devastated and I started to use any drug I could find. I left my boyfriend and moved to Calgary where I knew no one. For the next 10 years I lived on the streets of Calgary. Sometimes I slept at a homeless shelter. Mostly I slept outside because I didn’t trust the other people who stayed there. My days consisted of lots of walking, trying to find money for booze or drugs. I had to carry everything I owned in my back pack because it would be stolen if I didn’t. I tried to sober up so many times, but every time I got clean, bad memories came back and I just couldn’t cope with them. My sister went to court and I lost custody of my children. The pain was unbearable.
When I was homeless, I was physically and sexually assaulted by other street people and men who preyed on people like me. The street doctor I saw diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. He said I probably had this all my life because of my childhood and the life I was living on the street surely didn’t help. After suffering yet another assault and waking up in the hospital, I made the decision to try treatment again. I was accepted into an addiction treatment centre and for the first time in many years, I felt a little bit of hope for my future.
I worked hard, faithfully took my medication for my mental health and I was feeling so much better. Two months later, I was nearly finished treatment and I was petrified. I would be going back to the violence, surrounded by others’ drug and alcohol abuse, and the desperation to survive each day living on the streets. Luckily for me, this time I was introduced to "Keys."
Keys to Recovery is an agency like no other. They gave me an apartment with rent that I can afford and they gave me furniture to put in it. They come and visit me in my apartment to help me with things like my mental health, addictions counseling and teach me ways to stay clean and sober. They don’t judge me and I trust them. I have relapsed a few times and I was evicted from 4 apartments. They didn’t give up on me. During my last relapse, I was full of shame and I was afraid they would kick me out so I avoided the case managers and I refused to open my door when they came to visit. They spoke to me through the door for over an hour and a half telling me that they would not give up on me. I finally opened my door, went to my last treatment centre, and I am now 24 months sober. My children are now 19, 17 and 14 and they are doing good. They still live with my sister in another city but I see them as often as I can and we talk on the phone and Facebook every day. I am a work in progress and I am healing from all the trauma I have been through. Life today is good. If Keys has given up on me, I would have gone back to the streets and I know I would have died.
Our Impact What We Do
As part of Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, Calgary Keys to Recovery Society was developed to stop homeless individuals from returning to the streets once they have completed addictions treatment. This is an integral part of Calgary's sytstem of care.
Vision Statement: To permanently end homelessness with dignity, compassion, and support for adults recovering from addictions.
Mission Statement: Keys to Recovery provides intensive, collaborative case management services, in conjunction with permanent, affordable housing, for highly vulnerable adults who have completed addictions treatment.
By not only providing housing but the support they needed to maintain their sobriety and their housing, last year we PERMANENTLY ended homelessness for 100 men and women. Unlike traditional addictions services, we do not discharge a client if they relapse. Keys to Recovery understands that relapse can be a part of the recovery process but that it doesn't mean that the person needs to become homeless once again. We continue to support the person, in whatever way they need, in order to get them back on track. This may look different for each individual. For one person it could mean a return to residential treatment. For another, it could mean an outpatient day program. Some may require increased home visits until they stablize once again while others need to be relocated to a different apartment. Our Case Management team will work alonside each client to determine what type of supports are needed.
Our Programs How We Do It
Calgary Keys to Recovery Society (Keys to Recovery) conducts an assessment with each referred individual to ensure that they are highly vulnerable (chronically homeless), low income, mental health and/or chronic physical condition and that they require intensive case management support in order to maintain their housing and their sobriety. We offer scattered-site (a few apartments in various buildings throughout Calgary) and place-based (Keys to Recovery holds a Master Lease for the entire building) single or double occupancy housing options.
Once the individual is accepted, they choose their apartment from available units and a move in date is determined. Basic furnishings (donated) will be provided as well as groceries to get them started. Calgary Keys to Recovery Society will hold the lease on all apartments and will pay the market rental amount directly to the property manager for each apartment. The client will reimburse Calgary Keys to Recovery Society an amount each month based on 30% of their monthly income plus utilities.
Clients are visited by case managers in their homes on a regular basis, depending upon clients' level of need but ranges from daily to weekly. Upon acceptance and at three month intervals thereafter, case managers will conduct various evidenced based assessments in the following areas: current needs, vocational, physical, mental health, leisure, financial, housing, addictions, and cultural. Based upon these assessments, the case manager will work with the client to develop a service plan, which is also reviewed every three months, and is entirely determined by the client.
Keys to Recovery offers several services in various areas such as addictions counseling/relapse prevention, traditional Aboriginal ceremonies, job or volunteer readiness, psychiatric support, and systems navigation. We also offer 24/7 crisis support.
Keys to Recovery is PERMANENT supportive housing. Due to the high acuity of our clients and their complex needs, there is no maximum length of stay. However, we do have three phases that clients can move through. The first phase is the Stabilization Phase. Here, clients are seen by our psychiatrist and psychiatric nurse who provides a full psychiatric assessment. A mental health plan is developed alongside the client. This phase is from 0-12 months.
The Preparation Phase is the 2nd phase and is from 1-5 years. In this phase, the clients get their high school diploma, access post-secondary education or re-enter the workforce. The clients are preparing for graduation and independence. Keys to Recovery continues to support them with a Rent Geared to Income subsidy, case management and financial assistance for items such as school books, bus tickets, work boots, work clothes, resume and interview preparation, etc.
The 3rd and final phase is the Graduation Phase and is 5+ years in length. This phase involves the client completing post-secondary education, and becoming gainfully employed. The client is stable in their recovery, their employment, and their mental health. They are fully integrated into their communities and are able to be fully independent. They will then become Keys to Recovery Alumni and will be able to become a Peer Support for other Keys to Recovery clients.
Our Requests What You Can Do
Keys to Recovery has set an initial goal of increasing the organization’s annual budget by $500,000 for this year, which will greatly enhance the opportunities for the success of our clients to transition to normalized living in the community. Your support will make a great impact on our clients' lives and the City of Calgary as a whole by giving them a chance to become productive members of society. It doesn't get much better than that!
This is what your support would provide:
- Household supplies for one client when they move into their new apartment.
- Bus pass for one month for one client.
- Photo identification for 5 clients.
- Start up groceries for a new client.
- Bedding for 5 clients (sheets and comforter).
- A traditional Aboriginal ceremony (honorarium paid to an Elder for a sweat or healing circle) for all clients.
- Supplies for the Art Group for 20 clients
- 20 GED preparation study guides
- Provide Christmas gifts and dinner for 10 clients
- Subsidized rent for 2 clients for one month.
- Psychiatric treatment & support for six months for 1 client.
- Damage deposit for one apartment.
- Fully furnish one apartment.
- Start up groceries for 6 new clients.
- Tuition for grade 12 upgrading.
We are always looking for volunteers who are looking for ways to impact the lives of others in various ways. If you have skills in the following areas and would like to volunteer your time, please call 403-244-5397, extension 212 to arrange an interview.
- Fund development - sit on our Fund Development Committee (monthly meetings) or volunteer for events
- Marketing and communications - assist with the development of marketing and communication plans and materials
- IT support - trouble shooting
- Art Group - lead a project in our weekly client art group
- Cooking - teach a cooking class to our clients
- Movers and cleaners - assist staff with moving furniture and boxes or the cleaning of apartments after a move-out