Mental illness creates challenges for those seeking housing
Winnipeg emergency shelter often full as many struggle to find a home or job
Many people who rely on Winnipeg's homeless shelters have some kind of mental health issue, but there is not enough space to help everyone get off the streets.
Struggles with mental illness have made it challenging for some, like Iris Payment, to find a home or even a job.
Payment, who has borderline personality disorder, has been staying at the emergency shelter at the Salvation Army Booth Centre since December.
Payment said her depression was so severe at times, she could not pay bills or rent. As a result, she has been evicted in the past, and she has had trouble keeping a job and finding affordable housing.
"I've been struggling with this all my life. I get into a depressive mood, I won't leave the house, I don't do anything," she said.
Payment has applied with Manitoba Housing, but the wait is up to a year long. As well, she has no family to rely on for financial help.
"You need supports out there, but sometimes you don't know how to ask for it," she said.
'Really tough time'
In the meantime, Payment said she is relieved to have a warm place to stay, adding that staff at the shelter are treating her really well.
At the same time, she said she often gets lonely and she worries about her future, and the medication she's currently taking is not enough to deal with her illness.
Mark Stewart, the Salvation Army's residential services co-ordinator in Winnipeg, says the shelter — which can house up to about 400 people — has been full every night this winter.
The majority of those who stay at the shelter have a mental health issue, and many of them have no family members to rely on, Stewart said.
"If you don't have that support, you know, to help you with mental illness, say, you forget taking your meds for a week, and it does happen," he said.
Stewart added that what's really needed is more support for people who do leave the shelter.
"Within our building we've really built a community environment, so a lot of people that do move out, they come right back," he said.
Fortunate to have found a room
Raymond Wilwand has found a place to live at the Madison, an apartment block in the Wolseley neighbourhood that was purchased by Siloam Mission in 2011.
The 87-year-old, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in the 1980s, says he's happy with his small room.
"I'm fortunate, really fortunate. And all I want is a room, anyway," he said.
Staff at the Madison provide supportive housing for clients of Siloam Mission's emergency services — like its soup kitchen and shelter — who want to move toward self-sufficient lifestyles but need support.
Wilwand receives three meals a day and has laundry service. As well, staff members make sure he takes the monthly medication he needs.
He said he has made the best of his circumstances, but he sympathizes with others who are homeless and dealing with a mental health issue.
The Madison with full, with 85 guests living there. Siloam Mission is no longer accepting applications, as the waiting list has become too long.
As for Payment, she said she is looking for a place of her own, and she doesn't want to live in a rooming house.
She said she eventually wants to find a part-time job once she is settled and can get her mental illness treated.
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With files from the CBC's Nelly Gonzalez