The Gift of Hope on Day 11

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12 Days

If you have young children (or grandchildren) this time of year can be particularly joyful.  It’s an opportunity to start and pass along family traditions, spend time together and have some fun in the snow.  It is a time when a lot of workplaces wind down (unless you work retail of course) and, as the last ten days have shown, it is a time when a lot of people make an extra effort to help others and contribute to a better community.  What is there not to like about December?

Well, for many people on the receiving end of good will and charity, or those who are largely invisible in our community, like the homeless and those who are struggling with addiction, December is one of the worst times of year. December 25th in particular looms large as a reminder of broken families and relationships.

“We spend a lot of time getting people ready for Christmas,” Rick, a staff person in House of Friendship’s men’s addiction program told a group of us recently. “The guys get themselves mentally prepared for the loneliness and the bad memories and we make ourselves available over the holidays to support them.  But, in the new year, is when it hits the hardest.” This is a common experience for the staff in all of our addiction programs for men and women.

What can an individual do to build a sense of hope in people who are feeling like recovery might not be possible and that they may never be able to heal the damage that has shaken their families apart?

At 174, the House of Friendship’s addiction program for men, a graduate of the program has donated gifts for all the current residents for the last few years. Understanding and justice are also a good first step.  You can begin to understand the complexity of addiction and the nature of addiction by taking part in the annual In the Minds Eye film festival and speakers series.  It puts a human face on the difficult social problem of addiction and sheds some light on directions towards healing.

Another way you can help is to support the Under One Roof campaign that aims to build an integrated centre and bring together four separate women’s addiction treatment programs into a modern facility where participants can have better access to a range of treatment options, from preventative day treatment programs when first concerned about their substance use, to a full residential treatment program for diagnosed addictions health issues. In this expanded home, women will have their own bedrooms, the building will be fully accessible, and it will allow for indoor and outdoor spaces and programs for young children.  To do your part and give the gift of hope you can donate here.

An artist's rendering of the new facility for women's addiction services

An artist’s rendering of the new facility for women’s addiction services

Addiction is not the only reason why you might find this a bleak time of year.  For many, having a home in which they can celebrate is not an option.  People lose their housing all the time – year round.  The weather does not prevent landlords from evicting people and neither does the time of year.  For area shelters the winter is a difficult time.  Cold weather puts pressure on them and the out of the cold programs. The need for winter clothing and items like socks, winter hats, and mitts are in high demand.  Not only does eviction happen for not paying rent, but family violence occurs year round and victimized parents and their children are forced to seek shelter and safety. You can help them by donating items like these for women and their children escaping violence, or items like these for families who have nowhere else to turn when the lose their housing.

Even if you have a home, have never had to struggle with addiction (or have put it behind you) you may still find little hope for the new year this December. We have already spoken about the stigma that can still remain with people after they put a difficult chapter of their life behind them. They may still feel isolated from their family and loved ones or the world around them and need a little encouragement to reconnect as the weight of life’s struggles and a low income get them down.

In the residential programs that House of Friendship operates, staff and volunteers work hard to build a sense of tradition and normalcy as residents’ minds turn to their difficult family relationships or past hurts at this time of year.  Staff prepare Christmas dinners, purchase individual gifts for the residents, take them to large events like the tree lighting at City Hall. This builds a sense of community and maintains a sense of hope.

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