Help is here: Windsor transitional home helps people battling addiction tap services

Support is available: That was the underlying message of a workshop Thursday at Hand in Hand Support, a transitional home in Windsor for individuals battling addiction. 

Dramatic scenario kicks off conversation about trauma, crisis response

Scenario prompts discussion on addiction

2 years ago
Duration 1:05
Dylan MacDonald, a resident of Hand in Hand support, performs a dramatic enactment of a breakdown during an addictions awareness workshop to prompt discussions around how to access help.

Support is available: That was the underlying message of a workshop Thursday at Hand in Hand Support, a transitional home in Windsor for individuals battling addiction.

Dozens of residents at the home gathered to discuss trauma and stigma surrounding addiction. They were also given an opportunity to build bridges with agencies they can turn to for help, and that were at the workshop.

"Recovery is a big problem. Addiction is a big problem in this city," said Dylan MacDonald, a resident of the home for the last two weeks. He has been in recovery for more than 10 years. 

Dylan MacDonald has been in recovery for years. Now, he's using his background in acting to help other residents of Hand in Hand Support in Windsor, Ont. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"All you got to do is take a drive down Ouellette [Avenue] to see how Windsor has changed in the last 10 years. And having these organizations here ... really means a lot to me personally, and it means a lot to everybody here."

Those in attendance included representatives from:

  • House of Sophrosyne (a treatment facility).
  • Crossroads (centre for personal empowerment for those with addiction).
  • RE/ACT Windsor (a recovery education centre).
  • The Aegis Health Group (an out-patient addictions treatment facility).
  • The Windsor Police Service.

Setting the scene

The morning started with a dramatic scenario acted out by MacDonald, who has years of experience in both film and theatre, depicting a breakdown, while also being careful to not trigger anyone. The hope was that it would be cathartic for those in the audience.

Rob Sandwith, co-founder of Hand in Hand Support, speaks during the presentation portion of the workshop Thursday. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

It was just a scene, but one that resonated with many residents as something they have been through themselves.

"That's kind of what happened to me," said Tanner Harrett, who has been living at Hand in Hand for about two months. 

He remembered experiencing a similar breakdown before realizing he needed help. After an overdose, he knew he needed a support system. 

"I just didn't want to die." 

Help all in one place

After the dramatic enactment, residents were pointed in the direction of the various organizations available to speak to them. 

Matthew Peters came to Windsor from the Toronto area to get help at Hand in Hand Support, and says being able to meet with local organizations was beneficial. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"That's what we need," Harrett said. 

"There needs to be more places like this for people in the streets that have everything available to them all in one place, and just to have the support and to know that there's people behind you, because our families don't know what to do anymore."

For a newcomer to Windsor like resident Matthew Peters, having the organizations in one place was invaluable. 

"I know some people can be a little reluctant to really put themselves out there and try to introduce themselves to these groups," Peters said. 

"But once you start talking to them, you realize that there's no fault in making an attempt to meet somebody new as far as building a foundation for recovery."

Making connections

Shelly Wilson, a peer support co-ordinator with House of Sophrosyne, understands the value of organizations reaching out directly to those who need the help all in one place.

"If you're not doing these community things, what are you doing?" she said. 

"Even if they've heard about you, they just might need to meet you to have that connection to make that call."

A number of organizations made themselves available to Hand in Hand residents at the workshop, including House of Sophrosyne and Aegis Health Group. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Rob Sandwith, the co-founder of Hand in Hand Support, says the day was a success. 

"I'm excited. I believe it's inspired some people and at the very least it's given some amazing awareness to what's already happening in the community," he said. 

"We want to be part of the solution." 

The Aegis Health Group, an outpatient addictions treatment facility, handed out Naloxone kits during the workshop, and trained individuals on how to use the drug, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Sandwith said there are plans to organize more workshops that connect the transitional home's residents with local organizations, as well as drama workshops led by MacDonald.

MacDonald said he's grateful for the opportunity to use his acting experience to help contribute to the sobriety of his peers.

He's also grateful for what Hand in Hand has done for him already. 

Without these supports, "Quite possibly, I would be dead."

Robert Sandwith, co-founder of Hand in Hand Support says the workshop was a success, and allowed residents to connect with local organizations who want to help them. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)


Katerina Georgieva

Host of CBC Windsor News at 6

Katerina Georgieva is an RTDNA award winning multi-platform journalist for CBC News based in Windsor, Ont., with a passion for human interest stories. She has also worked for CBC in Toronto, Charlottetown, and Winnipeg. Have a news tip? You can reach her at