Transforming lives through supported housing
Behind a yellow picket fence in Vancouver’s Mole Hill community sits Watson House. And, behind its front door, lives are being transformed. The eight-bedroom restored heritage house is a refuge for young people ages 19 to 30 in the early stages of mental illness.
They are referred to live at one of Coast Mental Health’s community homes to rebuild life skills needed for more independent living. Half the beds are allocated to clients of Vancouver Coastal Health’s Early Psychosis Intervention (EPI) program, which provides early identification and treatment before symptoms become too unmanageable and disruptive.
Currently, Coast Mental Health, a non-profit and independent charity, operates 176 community homes across Greater Vancouver. These neighbourhood homes offer supports to people living with mental health challenges.
Our 50th Anniversary is an opportunity to recognize the many community partners, local health agencies, and supporters who have contributed to the success of Coast Mental Health and B.C.’s healthcare system. Together, we continue to adopt innovative solutions in community-based mental health services. These essential supports allow people living with mental illness to thrive and contribute in their neighbourhoods.
Twenty-five-year-old Osman is a Watson House EPI referral. He came to the home directly from a three-month stay in hospital after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.
“For me, Watson House is a safe place,” he said. “The staff are always there for me. I’ve found peace and I’m ready to take on more challenges. I learn something new every day.”
Osman’s family lives far away and is not able to visit easily. They stay in frequent touch by phone.
“It was hard when Osman first started showing symptoms because I recognized that he needed a lot more help than we could offer,” said his sister Hani, who is a nurse. “To see him accepting help from others is very reassuring. His confidence has grown substantially since moving into Watson House and he’s become a leader of his own care. We are so appreciative of Coast Mental Health for the help they have given Osman.”
Neighbourhood homes offer a stepping-stone to more independent living
For over five decades, we continue to ask government for an annual allotment of housing with specialized mental health supports, including training and employments services, to assist people with sustained recovery and wellness. With your support, Coast Mental Health has the expertise and infrastructure to make mental health services accessible in every neighbourhood.
Tenants are the lifeblood of Watson House. With help from staff, they plan meals, go grocery shopping, and cook. It’s also up to them to keep the home clean. Over the two years they generally spend there, they learn life skills that will help them move on and live more independently.
Cameron moved to Watson House last September from a home where he received additional supports. Prior to that, he spent two years in hospital. For him, Watson House is a stepping-stone to more independent living. He first noticed signs of schizophrenia seven years ago; those drove him to impulsive actions including drug use.
“I was homeless and started using crystal meth,” said Cameron, who has been clean for four years. “I really like living here; it’s nice to have a place to feel comfortable.”
For over 50 years, we have been steadfast in our mission— ensuring specialized mental health services are accessible to people across Greater Vancouver. As a non-profit organization and registered charity, we rely on donations to help us extend our reach to communities still in need.
Cameron’s sister is also grateful to Coast Mental Health for the changes she’s seen in Cameron.
“It’s hard to have transformation on your own,” said Amber. ‘I’ve noticed that Cameron has a better quality of life since moving into Watson House. He’s connecting with others and has a greater sense of freedom. It’s nice knowing he’s in a safe place and that he’s supported.”
Celebrating 50 years of providing mental health services in your community
On June 10, 2022, we celebrate our golden anniversary. Since, 1972, we’ve been busy building housing, supports and employment and education opportunities to support the mental health community. Learn more about our journey and how you can get involved by visiting our site.