The people we serve have rich stories of their own that they generously allow us to share from time to time. Here are some of those stories.
The Cridge Centre for the Family’s involvement in the field of brain injury started in 1988 with Macdonald House, a 10-bed residence for the brain injury survivors. During these 32 years, over 50 survivors have called Macdonald House home. We believe we have been and are successful in the support that we provide.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of brain injury survivors that reside in Greater Victoria and would benefit from strong housing support. The Cridge Centre has been a community leader in all the programs that we offer. As leaders, we need to address lagging social issues and provide positive solutions. From the perspective of mental health, addictions, and brain injury, it is very encouraging to witness this provincial government’s positive steps to purchase housing (The former Comfort Inn, Paul’s Motor Inn and possibly Oak Bay Lodge) in Victoria to house homeless population of our community. According to stats, over 52% of the homeless population are survivors of a brain injury. The intentions are good. Unfortunately, the positive outcomes have not quite come into fruition. With a couple of additions/program tweaks the plan to successfully house those targeted can be achieved.
I took the opportunity to submit this Op-Ed to the Times Colonist and am sharing it with you:
“Our Homelessness Situation: Positive Solutions to further Positive Outcomes
The current government, specifically, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, through BC Housing is to be congratulated for purchasing local motels and investigating the possibilities of refurbishing recently vacated LTC facilities in efforts to help and house the homeless. Unfortunately, despite the best intentions, challenges are arising within these new facilities. On Al Ferraby’s Morning Show, Love Dodd, owner of Dodd’s Furniture, shared about the negative impact of the homeless being transitioned to the Comfort Inn site. For local businesses in the area, there has been a significant increase in vandalism, break-ins, and common areas have been fouled. Sadly, an owner has been threatened with physical harm. View Royal Mayor David Screech posted on his Facebook page that Oak Bay residents are resisting the idea of the conversion of the recently vacated Oak Bay Lodge for the Homeless community.
It is crucial that there are positive steps taken to assist those on the fringes of our society, so they do not become the targets of community backlash. The ghettoization of the disenfranchised has never been a solution to a social problem. Support for this population benefits from allies as opposed to adversaries. This can be achieved by committed programming support and establishing strategic alliances. There is a requirement for the initial financial investment. But its value of positive outcomes will far outweigh long term costs.
Instead of housing these new facilities with 100% of the homeless population, we should consider an integrated model. The average population consists of one in five being a person with a disability. It is clearly identified that the homeless population being supported is impaired with a disability. The majority are living a mental health, addiction and/or a brain injury.
There are community models of successfully integrated housing. For example, there is “Independent Living with Support”. Survivors of a brain injury living in their own apartment in a building that includes market renters. This model develops a community. Instead of the stigma of being a person with a disability, survivors are just one of the renters. They are supported with specific life skill training and they blend in as opposed to sticking out. At the same time, market renters are exposed to survivors of a brain injury. Perhaps they are passing in the hallway, riding the elevator, saying “hi” while picking up their mail. There is the realization that these individuals are not to be feared. Survivors have suffered misfortune and they are trying to improve. Through positive interactions, these market renters become our allies. Instead of becoming a “mini, segregated institution,” The Comfort Inn facility could be a rich, diverse population if we designated 60% of the units to non-disabled individuals. Providing reasonably priced rents could attract a strong cross-section of our community. This market could include university students, new immigrants to Canada or those on a limited or fixed employment income.
By integrating a facility like the Comfort Inn, we lose direct beds for the homeless population. This can be alleviated by encouraging a Continuum of Care. The Comfort Inn beds need not be a forever home. As we house those with mental health, addictions issues and/or a brain injury, we must encourage and support them to continue their positive journey toward recovery. The provision of life skills support and job development training will provide tools for these residents to become more independent, positive, productive, contributing members of our community. With these wrap-around services, these individuals will move on from the Comfort Inn, freeing up a residence and maintaining continual flow through.
If you talk to those who are homeless, you will hear stories of misfortune occurring to them that have led to their becoming homeless. An abusive partner, opioid addiction to manage pain to address a sports injury or a headfirst tumble off a bike can happen to anyone at any time. No matter the causes, committed investment in the lives of brain injury survivors will be a success for everyone in our community.
As we move forward to serve and improve our community take the time to be an advocate. Our experience, knowledge, and commitment to help are valued voices and opinions that need to be shared.”
By Geoff Sing, Manager of The Cridge Brain Injury Services
To learn more about The Cridge Brain Injury Services, visit this page.
Ten years ago, our Cridge supported daycare at Vic High (Higgins House) was faced with insurmountable challenges – no space and no funding. Vic High needed the daycare space for its expansion. The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) decided to stop funding support daycares. Higgins House had to close. But The Cridge was not about to give up on the young moms and their children!
The question was – how were we going to go forward with our commitment to supporting young moms and their children. We attended community meetings and plotted and strategized. It became apparent that many young moms throughout the Capital Region needed support to face the challenges of adulthood and parenting, not just the ones who were attending Vic High or connected to daycare. Outreach support seemed the obvious approach.
Funding was cobbled together, and Nicole Andrews was scooped up from Higgins House and launched into creating The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program (YPOP). She started out in the corner of the Cridge Daycare front office, using her own vehicle, supporting 12 young families on very part-time hours. Demand for the program increased, more funding was cobbled together for more hours, a bigger office was created, a program vehicle purchased, and Nicole’s caseload more than doubled. Ten years later, Cridge YPOP has actual program space (in Unit #6), the car is still going strong, and so is Nicole who juggles up to 30 young moms and 40 children.
What has Cridge YPOP meant to the young moms who have accessed the program? Here are some of the comments from over the years:
“I have been able to do things on my own which was never possible for me. It has helped me be a better parent to my children and I have learned how to cope with my everyday life which was not the case before I started working with my [Outreach] worker”.
“When I feared of failing as a parent and where on earth to go in my life – help was offered by wise words and resources”.
“The program helped me get my daughter back, facilitated access, mentored me and counselled me. I am forever grateful”.
“Nicole mainly helped me deal with the social stigma about being a low-income single parent. Nicole also helped me gain enough self-esteem to join the workforce”.
We are so blessed to work with all of these families and to have had the support of all the other Cridge programs in giving us space and working so closely with us.
We are celebrating our 10th Anniversary COVID style. Families are visiting the YPOP space all during the week of July 13 to have some treats, do some shopping in the Free Store, and to make a “Growing Together” scrapbook.
By Marlene Goley, Manager of The Cridge Transition House and Outreach Services
This spring, many of us felt disconnected from people we love and care for while trying to cope with the pandemic. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of all the essential workers, we are now able to return to our workplaces and reconnect with families and friends carefully and cautiously. COVID-19 left us with a changed sense of our world. We went from COVID-baking to new ways of budgeting to fighting for social justice. Today, like never before, we feel the urge to make our world a better place! Here are seven ways you can make a difference in your community.
- Support small local businesses, including Black, Indigenous, and immigrant-owned businesses. It will have a significant impact on owners as well as strengthening the community.
- Do a beach clean up with family or friends. Visit vancouverisland.surfrider.org/beach-cleanups for more information. Let’s keep our home clean!
- Volunteer. While many non-profit organizations are closed for volunteer opportunities, a new type of digital volunteering is gaining popularity. For more information visit volunteervictoria.bc.ca
- Be kind to your neighbours. Check on your neighbours and see if there is anything you can do for them, especially if they are elderly. Sometimes a few minutes of your time will be enough to make someone’s day!
- Support a great cause. Ride for Refuge is coming – this year, you can ride freestyle, walk, cycle or choose something completely unique. For more information, ways to participate and to register, visit rideforrefuge.org
- Donate your time or your goods – food banks, clothing donations, hygiene supplies for homeless shelters – everything counts! It is a great time to assess your belongings and see if there is anything worth donating. Charities like WIN (Women In Need) Society and Victoria Pregnancy Centre are accepting donations by appointment. There is always a need for menstrual products and personal hygiene products throughout the year!
- Educate yourself on social issues like systemic racism, Indigenous rights, gender-based violence, and environmental issues, to name a few. By educating yourself, you can become a great advocate for people in our community and help to create a safe and inclusive space for everyone!
Today we want to highlight the work of one particular member of The Cridge family – Tori is the Community Program Coordinator for Community/Outreach and Mary Cridge Manor programs and services with The Cridge Brain Injury program. She joined The Cridge Brain Injury Services team in June 2007 as a brain injury support worker. She shared that her first experience was working with stroke survivors. It was a great and humbling experience for her to see the challenges they and their families needed to overcome in the process of rehabilitation.
Victoria grew up in Langford and moved across the country to attend Carleton University in Ottawa. Her area of interest was in combination criminology, psychology, sociology and law. Tori’s first experience after returning to Victoria was working in the Youth Division at the Military Family Resource Center, where she was running loss and grief workshops and programming for youth 6-19 years old. It was there that she met Janelle Breese Biagioni who later introduced her to the work of The Cridge Centre.
Tori’s favourite part of working with clients is that they get to celebrate small steps. “The rehabilitation takes time, sometimes years and years to restore lost functions,” shared Tori, “that is why it is so important to celebrate small victories. It is not about the finish line, it is about the journey.” Tori also loves the creativity of problem-solving. “There is always a solution, sometimes it just takes some time to find the right approach that works for a particular client. And The Cridge Centre’s mandate makes it easier to concentrate on the client’s needs and make decisions according to the best of the client’s interest.”
“What makes it hard is to realize the problem is systemic,” continued Tori. “We went a long way but there is so much more that needs to be done in advocacy for brain injury survivors, policy development, and service delivery. It is inspiring and humbling to advocate and work alongside brain injury survivors, accompany and help them on their journey of recovery.”
When we asked Victoria, what would be the main message she would like to share with us and our audience, she smiled “we all need to be kinder in our lives to ourselves and those that surround us.” It is easy to dismiss a person on the street and make a judgement about their problems. “So many brain injury survivors face difficulties communicating with people in their everyday life: in the bank, grocery store, on a street.” It is problematic for many of the brain injury survivors to clearly express themselves, stay calm or reach out to ask for help. It is so important for us to be compassionate when communicating with the people surrounding us. “Take a moment to listen, be patient. It can mean so much. Take a moment to reach out – it might change someone’s life. And if you don’t know the answer – ask. Help us to spread awareness and help build a stronger community!”
To learn more about The Cridge Brain Injury Services, visit the program’s page.
Over a period of the past weeks, we collected stories about our families during the lockdown, their struggles and successes. Here is one of the stories.
The young parents that access The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program (YPOP) are overwhelmed, stressed and exhausted. Typically, they have little or no supportive family and are isolated and marginalized. A visit from the Cridge YPOP Outreach Worker can make a huge difference. This is especially true during this current COVID pandemic when these young parents are even more isolated. The current need to socially isolate means that the Cridge YPOP Outreach Worker has needed to come up with creative ways to stay connected to the young parents in her program. One way has been to put together small food hampers to deliver to their doors on a weekly basis. This means that single moms do not have to figure out how to get groceries and keep their small children at home to minimize their exposure. We have realized that these visits can mean so much more than this very important practical help. After a grocery hamper drop and a bit of a chat from outside the front door, a young mom sent The Cridge YPOP Outreach Worker a text saying how desperate she had been feeling before the visit. She had been feeling in a very dark place that was getting darker. The Cridge YPOP Outreach Worker’s visit saved her from spiralling down further and gave her the lift she needed to carry on. We are grateful to have the extra funds to make up grocery hampers to deliver to all of our young parents. These bags of groceries are lifelines during these lonely, overwhelming times.
To learn more about The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program click here.
Remember that comforting feeling of a hand stroking your hair and a voice telling you that everything is going to be alright? So many of us had a special woman in our life that was a role model, our best supporter, and our passionate advocate. Some of us called her mom, nanna, baba, geema, or maybe auntie. She demonstrated strength of spirit even when it was easier to falter and give up.
Now, with Mother’s Day almost upon us, it is time to think of a special gift that tells her how much she means to us. You can never go wrong with flowers or chocolate, but there is another wonderful option available!
Just as your mom cared for you, you can pay that forward by supporting a family in need. So many of our young families are food insecure, often struggling to feed their children. The gift of a grocery card gives so much more than food — it also provides hope and peace of mind during a stressful time. You can give that gift today. Your mom will be proud of you!
To give a gift in honour of your mom, visit this page.
During the lockdown, we would like to acknowledge the work of some of our fantastic staff members who continue to serve our clients during the pandemic.
Today we want to highlight the work of one particular member of The Cridge family: Tanya is one of the hardworking staff members of our childcare team.
Tanya joined our team nine years ago after moving to Victoria. She worked as a Nature Preschool teacher, which means helping children to learn more about themselves, how to problem-solve, building their confidence and preparing them for school, all while in nature. We asked Tanya what the most rewarding experience as a preschool teacher was. “I love watching children reaching out to their milestones, celebrate them in their successes and helping them overcome their challenges,” she shared with us.
Recently, Tanya transitioned into an administrative position where she works to support our childcare management to take care of the vital work that usually stays behind the scenes. Tanya also provides support to our Dovetail program. She shared that she loves the new life and work balance she achieved by working in an administrative position. It allows her to spend more time with her husband and two children.
We asked her what she loves most about The Cridge Centre. “It was the perfect fit and love from the first sight,” she shared. The combination of a faith-based workplace, a great team to work with and all the goodness which The Cridge Centre brings into our community was exactly what she was looking for.
We are grateful and proud to have Tanya as a part of our team, providing services to our families and essential workers during the pandemic!
I am always amused in our interview process when I ask what a potential employee appreciates most about Seniors and they answer “I love how they are all so sweet!”
Now that’s just not true! Our seniors come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments, just like we do. Some are lovely and sweet, some are curmudgeonly, some are funny as all get out, some are wise and generous with their stories and life experiences, and some keep themselves close to the vest. That’s what makes a community – all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds, coming together to form a brand new community.
As both residents and staff come and go, the community shifts and different talents, interests and personalities come to the forefront, but the thread of “home” stays the same.
Our goal is to make every resident feel accepted, warmly welcomed and valued, just for being who they are.
Some of them come from situations that were not safe, or where they were isolated. Some come from wonderful places because they just need a bit more care. Some come because “I don’t want to ever cook again”. But whatever the reason, they are welcomed and hopefully, if we do our job right, this becomes home.
By Sarah Smith, Manager of The Cridge Seniors’ Services
Today we want to share a story with you. During the lockdown, we would like to acknowledge the work of some of our amazing staff members who continue to serve our clients during the pandemic.
Nick is our Brain Injury Services Direct Care Coordinator – and he makes sure that every client in his care feels safe and respected.
Nick came to The Cridge Brain Injury Services as a nursing student in 2013. He shared that his first experience was to witness a fight between two residents. It was a realistic glance at the everyday tasks, responsibilities and challenges at MacDonald House, The Cridge Centre for the Family’s residential program for Brain Injury survivors. It was an intimidating start to his work!
As he returned to Mac House over and over again, he could not help but fall in love with the residents. Under the guidance of The Cridge Brain Injury Manager, Geoff, Nick learned the intricacies of working with people who suffered from brain injury.
“No brain injury is the same,” shares Nick, “which means every new client requires a unique approach to their needs and difficulties. That makes my job even more interesting and challenging. That’s why I love my job!”
Nick believes that compassion and empathy are the most essential tools when working with brain injury clients. It is all about whatever it takes to preserve the dignity of the person.
The biggest challenge Nick faces working with people who have experienced brain injury is the fact that in order to provide safety it is necessary to limit clients’ independence and place boundaries on decision making.
Here is an example. For someone who is disoriented and confused or suffering from memory loss, the last thing to do is to allow them to go for a walk with no supervision. It is so easy to get lost! But the limitations to their independence and decision making will frustrate Mac House clients, explained Nick. Good communication is the best tactic, he shared with us. And patience.
Nick believes that it is all about the balance between providing safety and taking things slow. He likes to remind clients that it takes time to rebuild their lives back to a new normal. If there is a will, there is the way.
We are grateful to every member of our Cridge family that is on the frontlines and taking care of our clients, making sure that their needs are met.