Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Foundation plays active part in community

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SINCE 1971, the Behavioural Health Foundation has kept a quiet presence in St. Norbert, assisting scores of men, women and children in dealing with addiction.

The foundation's purpose is not only to reduce substance abuse, but to produce employable, self-sufficient clients by providing a holistic, communal setting.

For Dawn (who requested her last name not be used), a 46 year-old mother who is in the latter phase of the foundation's program, being a part of this unique community has made all the difference in her life. She credits the foundation with stopping a personal spiral that led to her alcohol and drug dependency.

"I've had a lot of deaths in my life and I just went into a very bad depression, it was getting deeper and deeper," Dawn says. "It's not going to take overnight to deal with things that have bothered you all your life."

The foundation assists clients with a combination of group, family and individual counselling, employment readiness training, special education classes, literacy and adult education, and traditional aboriginal programming -- all in a highly formatted environment.

"It's a different lifestyle for a lot of people," Dawn says. "Every morning you have to get up and go to work in the foundation house. You're getting routine and structure in your life. Most people here didn't have that before."

Foundation residents all play a vital role in the day-to-day operation of the facility, whether it's working in the kitchen, doing laundry, general cleaning or maintenance.

"It's very supportive. Everyone here is helping everyone else," Dawn says.

That philosophy also extends into the rest of the St. Norbert community. Foundation residents have long played an active part in the community, participating in cleanups, school crossing guard programs, and sandbagging initiatives that occur almost every spring. The foundation also runs the St. Norbert Adult Education Centre, which serves the St. Norbert community at large.

"We're very much a part of this community," says Jean Doucha, the foundation's assistant executive director. "There's few families that you'll find in St. Norbert that have been here longer than the Behavioural Health Foundation."

The foundation started as an offshoot of the B.C.-based X-Kalay Foundation Society, a successful reintegration and healing program. Translated from Cree, X-Kalay means "the unknown path." The original X-Kalay program was Canada's first halfway house; it quickly expanded to assist needy clients from all walks of life, as well as their families.

Shortly after establishing in Winnipeg, the foundation moved to St. Norbert, finding an ideal three-storey building that had been maintained by Les Peres Oblates (the Oblate Fathers). The building, which was erected in 1900, was leased to the foundation for one dollar per year; it was eventually purchased outright in 1985.

Since then, the foundation has also developed Kirkos House, a treatment program for adolescent girls that operates on the St. Norbert site.

Another program, the Selkirk Healing Centre, assists young males. The foundation places a heavy emphasis on family ties, providing two day-cares, education and other services -- allowing families to remain together while a member is in treatment.

For Dawn, this was the determining factor in joining the Behavioural Health Foundation community, as she has been able to stay together with her 12-year-old son during her 13-month stay.

"This was the only place I could go with my son," Dawn says. "His father and my mother had both passed away, so I don't have a lot of family that is able to look after him. This is a safe environment for both of us."

Currently, Dawn and her son are enrolled in the Transitional Housing Program. Two years ago, the foundation obtained and renovated seven houses in St. Norbert, offering families and residents more privacy, independence and day-to-day flexibility.

"It's really gone well for the two of us," Dawn says of the housing program. "This is one of the biggest steps. It helps you get back into the community."

Doucha considers this phase essential.

"One of the biggest traps for people leaving treatment is when they move back to the same environment they came from they're likely not to succeed for very long. They're very vulnerable. This program gives them more time to prepare for real community living, with all of our supports nearby."

The foundation always encourages local residents to learn more about the facility.

The foundation is having an open house on Sept. 19 at 2 p.m., to coincide with their annual general meeting. The foundation is located at 35 Ave de la Digue, St. Norbert.

For more information about the foundation, visit www.bhf.com.

PHOTO DARCY FINLEY/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 27, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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