Robert’s Story: Robert was a complex man, who faced many complex problems in his life.
At the age of eight, following years of physical, mental and emotional trauma, Robert became a ward of the foster care system. At the age of 16, Robert left the foster care system and became involved with street life. During these years, Robert struggled with drug and alcohol addictions and was in constant conflict with the criminal justice system.
Later in life, Robert faced even more challenges when he was diagnosed with bipolar and borderline personality disorder, as well as HIV. His complex health needs continued to add additional challenges in his daily life, ultimately hindering his ability to live the life he wanted and deserved. Years of financial instability, substance abuse, and participation in the sex work industry, while continuing to deal with his complex health needs, marginalized Robert in his community. Ultimately, Robert became withdrawn and distrustful of community workers and social institutions. Although Robert had been referred to several specialists, addiction counselors and life skills programs, he was often refused treatment based on prior criminal convictions and anti-social behaviour.
Because Robert did not have the opportunity to acquire conventional life skills as a youth, he often struggled to maintain his living space, his personal finances and even cooking for himself. Robert and his caseworkers recognized that his general well-being and quality of life would improve if the proper support systems could be accessed and utilized.
In January of 2009, Robert became a resident in one of SHARP Foundation’s programs, giving him access to supportive resources that could assist him in areas of his life that were challenging to address on his own. Robert enjoyed the stability the SHARP program offered him; however, it soon became evident that Robert would benefit more from a program that was able to offer him higher levels of individual support and care.
Robert was transferred to the more intensive, long-term care program offered by SHARP called “Beswick House”. Beswick House was able to help Robert stabilize his medication regime, while addressing his addictions and mental health concerns. It was at Beswick House that Robert flourished and became an active, contributing member in his local community. He often helped preparing meals, aided in household tasks, and offered assistance to the more disabled residents in the house.
Robert came to love the community and companionship Beswick House offered and ways it enabled him to secure the structure, friendship and security he was unable to obtain prior to his residency. The support and compassion offered by the SHARP Foundation and supporting staff allowed Robert to pursue the life he truly wanted and deserved. Robert was able to participate in a community where he was understood and accepted, dramatically improving his health and well-being.
Robert happily resided at Beswick House for three years until his sudden passing in 2013. Over 50 people from all parts of the community came together to celebrate his life; he would have appreciated knowing that he had touched the hearts of so many!
For 25 years, SHARP has been providing care for Calgary’s most vulnerable people who constantly struggle to overcome barriers to services needed to address their complex health and social needs. Our clients often struggle with issues such as homelessness, mental illness, addictions, histories of abuse/violence, chronic diseases (HIV, Hep C, diabetes, cancers), brain injuries and more. Housing and supports are generally inaccessible to those living with HIV due to the stigma surrounding the complexities of the disease and associated factors such as sexual orientation, substance use and mental illness. Therefore, The SHARP Foundation is committed to providing avenues that ensure that affordable housing and accessible programming are available for individuals living with HIV.
The SHARP foundation provides a nurturing environment to attract and retain highly skilled and compassionate people to deliver and support our clients, programs, and services. To ensure staff, volunteers, and service providers are best able to participate in creating healthy environments and promote health for our clients, we will provide education and awareness of issues including HIV, diversity, medical and/or social issues.
In the last 25 years we have served over 350 people. Today we provide nationally recognized services to 69 clients through outreach and in five facilities. We offer 24/7 staffed medical/behavioural supports, peer-mentored homes and independent living apartments. We pride ourselves on providing compassionate, non-judgmental, respectful care to our clients, while fostering their ability to gain greater independence and improve their well-being. We do all of this for less than $100 per day per resident, which is anywhere from half the cost of hospice care to 1/18th the cost of acute hospital care.
SHARP creates safe, secure, non-judgmental environments where people can be themselves and discuss openly the challenges they face daily. It is in these spaces that clients begin to heal, engage in their own wellness, or in some cases, reclaim their dignity.
We currently operate five programs located in Calgary residential neighbourhoods. Residents are provided with affordable housing and individualized support to meet their housing, medical, and psycho-social needs. After stabilizing an individual’s medication regimen we provide programs to improve her/his quality of life.
Our care, housing programs and services are targeted to individuals living with HIV coming from diverse communities or backgrounds (i.e., socio-economic, behavioural/lifestyle, religious/spiritual and cultural characteristics). Client history and/or lifestyle choices may include: homelessness, street involvement, illicit drug use and / or criminal activity. In some cases our clients may contact us directly for assistance, but in most cases they are referred by other agencies including Southern Alberta Clinic, Calgary Drop-In Centre, HIV Community Link and Safeworks.
SHARP provides compassionate care by:
Partnerships are critical for our organization to provide cost effective delivery of care and support for residents of Beswick House and Scott House. Our partners are actively engaged in the care, treatment and support of our residents, providing a multi-disciplinary approach to resident care. Our strategic partners include:
Just as each person is unique, each person’s experience with HIV is unique; no patient can be treated with the exact same methods as another. Some of the factors that influence how we care for a patient are history, current state of well being, social support availability, and physical or mental disabilities. Age is also a factor we take into consideration as a secondary diagnosis such as cancer or Parkinson’s disease is common with the ageing of the patient. HIV hinders a person’s immune system so these secondary diagnoses can have a severe effect on the patient.
Not only is the demand for our Beswick House (24/7) program is increasing at a phenomenal rate, due to the aging of persons living with HIV, but Alberta Health Services has concluded that there is a total of 508 individuals in Calgary over the age of 50 living with HIV who are beginning to require higher levels of care.
SHARP, in true Calgary fashion, will meet this challenge head-on so that this city remains accessible to all. However, only 14 per cent of our budget is derived from direct government funding. We need your help!
With your financial support and the support of our community partners, we will plan and implement the types of homes and support that will help all citizens of calgary access the care and supports needed to keep them healthy and happy.
Help us build homes where people can define themselves, and not just be definition of their illness. Help us build homes where people matter and where hope is tangible.
We accept donations in all types; as a volunteer you’re donating your time and energy to enriching the lives of those living with HIV; as a monetary donor you’re donating your hard-earned money to support our care-giving services; and as a donor of goods (furniture, gift certificates, etc.) you’re enabling us to make our facilities and range of activities better for our residents. For more information on ways to donate, please see our Donate page.
We could not do the work we do without the commitment and support of our Volunteers. Thank you to our over 145 volunteers who contribute their valuable skills, knowledge and time to The SHARP Foundation!
Volunteers provide support with our fundraising activities and events, client support, facility maintenance and providing governance as Board and committee members. If you or your club/group have specific skills that you feel would benefit the Foundation or the clients we serve, or an interest in getting involved, please contact our Program Manager to discuss how you can get involved.
The SHARP Foundation accepts volunteer applications from interested and passionate members of the community. For a full list of volunteer opportunities click here.