A team of addictions counsellors is working to open a long-term residential recovery centre in Winnipeg exclusively for women and LGBTTQ+ community members to help them overcome isolation and relapse.
Leora Strand, Cindy Foster and a third silent partner have fall 2020 marked on their calendars as a tentative goal to open Regenesis House to women seeking addiction recovery services in central Winnipeg.
Now, the startup not-for-profit organization has to fundraise at least $500,000 through community donations to their GoFundMe page and grants to buy a building and renovate it.
"We are encouraging queer women to come into our house and we’ll be including trans women," Strand said. "There’s really a deficit, for people who identify as part of the LGBTQ community, to seek addiction treatment services in Winnipeg."
Foster said members of the LGBTTQ+ community often feel uneasy in residential treatment spaces, which is why the Regenesis House model will provide a safe space for anyone who identifies as a woman.
Neither Strand nor Foster could name a long-term recovery centre for members of the LGBTTQ+ community in the city. There are also few recovery facilities that strictly service women, they said. (Theirs would house between five to eight women at a time, depending on the building they buy.)
Meanwhile, the province’s recovery programs have lengthy wait times — weeks, months or even as long as a year, depending on the program, the team behind Regenesis House said.
Combined, the trio has more than 20 years of experience with mental health and addictions care.
Having witnessed firsthand how lengthy wait times are for addictions treatment and how frequent relapse is, as well as how the ongoing methamphetamine and opioid crises are affecting Manitobans’ health, they came up with Regenesis House.
"I was working in the addictions field and I saw a lot of clients come back into care, time and time again. Of course, everyone’s story is different, but a main theme was all these folks had a loss of safe and sober community support after leaving treatment," said Foster, who graduated from the University of Manitoba’s psychology program, which is where she and Strand met.
Strand also said she noticed a similar pattern of relapse due to limited aftercare support. "For women and women who are trying to reunify with their children, that’s such a violent cycle," she said.
Both women said they want to create a program that focuses on treatment both when patients are living at the transitional facility and once they move out.
They plan to operate a culturally-appropriate, in-house treatment program that will last between six to 12 months. Once residents graduate, there will be an open invite to come back and receive aftercare support focused on stable reintegration.
Strand said "the loneliness factor" can spiral into relapse when recovering addicts graduate from programs, so they want to ensure women feel like they have a community of support once they leave.
"We’re hoping to really establish a relationship for a lifetime with our residents," Foster said.
The house will be staffed with two experienced addictions counsellors and an outreach and program coordinator. The team also plans to rely heavily on volunteers. They are in the process of becoming a registered charity with the Canada Revenue Agency.
Strand and Foster said they want to ensure there are no out-of-pocket costs for the women who enter the program. Instead, they said their patients will be able to apply through Employment and Income Assistance to cover their rent and all other expenses.
Maggie is a cub reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.