Our House – a 60-bed addictions recovery facility for men – is bursting at the seams and wants to expand to be able to help more clients.
The substance abuse program offers a year-long treatment plan to help addicts stay clean and learn how to overcome their substance abuse issues.
The men come on a referral basis from hospitals, detox facilities, short-term addictions programs or jails.
“I would be dead without Our House. I would be a statistic,” client Dwight Brouse said.
“You’re not viewed as an addict here. They really work on why you’re using drugs or alcohol. And I think that’s more important than just getting you to stop using drugs.”
Brouse has been battling a cocaine addiction for 20 years, but for the last few months, he’s been getting help at Our House.
“It’s been amazing. Even to just have three meals a day, to wake up and know you’re somewhere safe. You have 60 other clients here who always have your back.”
Our House opened in 2008 and currently has 60 beds, two per room at a converted motel in west Edmonton.
With the opioid crisis, it’s been running with a two-month wait list, which is plenty of time for someone to relapse.
“To wait two months in a crisis, that’s people’s lives,” Brouse said. “Especially when you’re suicidal or you’re battling with depression.”
With that in mind, Our House is aiming to grow.
“We started investigating expanding to another facility and acquiring another property,” executive director Laurie de Grace explained. “The provincial government was contacted to find out if additional funds would be available to allow for an expansion.”
That was in February. $1 million would be enough to help Our House buy another property for 20 more beds.
In May, de Grace said the Alberta NDP got back to staff and said while there wasn’t additional funding available, associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne was interested in coming for a tour.
“I would say it’s one of our government’s top priorities, particularly as we’re dealing with the overdose crisis,” Payne said.
“We are losing many Albertans every day.”
Payne toured Our House on Monday afternoon, led by a client-turned staff member.
“We thought that by showing her the type of operation we have and with the current interest of the government in addiction and mental health, that there may be an opportunity to acquire funds down the road,” de Grace said.
However, no promises were made about financial support.
“We know that the need for addictions recovery support is really high right now in the province and so by working in collaboration with service providers we’re going to be able to get Albertans the help that they need.”
Still, de Grace is trying to be optimistic.
“I think it’s a very positive step. They’re interested in seeing what we’re doing, getting a better feel for the operation we run; seeing it will give them a better idea of why we need funding and why talk important to expand.”
Telling addicts they can’t get into Our House right away can be challenging for staff.
“It’s very difficult, because you know somebody’s life is at risk. We want to be able to help. We know that without the opportunity to come here, the chances of success are not great,” de Grace said.
Clients say they get a lot of help over the year-long program.
“This place can give you resources on transitional housing, mental health, you have one on one with counsellors, it’s all encompassing,” Brouse said.
There’s also a music room, an entertainment room with a pool table, and a trailer full of exercise equipment.
The clients also help with things like cooking, gardening or electrical repairs – whatever they have an interest or expertise in.
“Their life skills would be sadly lacking. These people, the men who come here, are most at risk. They’re coming from very difficult circumstances and this is an opportunity for them to get their lives in order,” de Grace said.
“We’re covering all aspects of living. Things like how to cook, budgeting, how to take care of themselves.”
Brouse said he too is hopeful the government will help create more beds for addicts.
“This place is invaluable. Twenty beds is 20 lives you’re saving. I don’t think there’s a price on people’s lives.”