Every night in the Cowichan Valley, the experience of homelessness is a reality for many adults and youth - whether they are coach surfing, sleeping outdoors, or feeling unstable in their current situation. It is estimated that there are well over 300 homeless individuals in the Cowichan Valley.
Both our Warmland House Shelter and Open Door Youth Services Centre are spaces where the CMHA Cowichan Valley Branch staff can connect with and assist homeless individuals. No matter what brings someone through the door, they are always met with caring and welcoming staff, eager to offer support in whatever form is needed.
COVID-19 has presented us with many challenges. While we continue to provide service to some of our most vulnerable community members, we have put many fundraising events on hold and are challenged to meet the needs of the growing population of individuals who find themselves without adequate housing.
Here are five simple ways that you can offer your support to someone that may be hungry, cold and suffering.
1) 'Cowichan Cares: WinterWear Drive for the Homeless'
It's cold and wet out there and our homeless community is definitely feeling it. Please check your closets for gently used winter coats, ponchos, rainwear, boots, shoes, socks or umbrellas that you are no longer in need of and consider donating to Warmland House Shelter at 2579 Lewis Street. Due to COVID restrictions the front gate at Warmland is locked. Please press the buzzer to the left of the gate and staff will come out and collect your donations.
If your organisation or group is interesting in taking on a coat/boot drive for our homeless population, please send us a message and we will help you get started.
2) 2022 Calendar Fundraiser - Birds of the Cowichan Valley
The CMHA Cowichan Valley Branch has partnered with Cowichan Valley photographer Ken Thorne to produce a beautiful 2022 calendar. Many people are familiar with Ken's beautiful bird photographs. The calendar is gorgeous and would make a lovely Christmas gift. All proceeds support local mental health programming. The calendars are $25 each, which includes shipping within Canada. They are available to order online now and in person at the following supporting businesses:
Please have cash available for in-person purchases. Many thanks to these businesses and to Ken for graciously donating his beautiful images. Supplies are limited so order early to avoid disappointment.
This past year will go down in history as a year when the world as we know it changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about physical distancing, the importance of hand hygiene and masks, and has reminded us that while we cannot be with many of those we love, we can still be connected and show that love in so many different ways.
That is how we feel about the work we do at CMHA Cowichan Valley Branch. We continue to see, listen and care for people in our community as they need support. Only a few of our programs are 'on hold' because of COVID-19 and we have quickly adapted our services to continue to support some of the Cowichan Valley's most vulnerable citizens.
In celebration of Mental Health Week, May 3-9, 2021, we are excited to introduce you to some of our wonderful staff. In better times, we would invite you to visit our program sites and meet staff in person, but in times of COVID restrictions, we will celebrate the week by sharing faces and a few words from a few key members of our teams.
Meet Our Team:
Anne Marie T, Manager of Community Engagement and Fund Development
"For the last three years, I have been pleased to be part of the CMHA-CVB team. My role is largely communications and fundraising. It is my pleasure to spread the word about the good work that we do in the community. My goal is to reduce stigma and increase understanding and support for those in Cowichan Valley that are challenged with mental health and substance use issues and homelessness.
I can say without hesitation that our strength is in our people. I look forward to introducing you to just a few of our almost 100 staff. We have an incredible team of dedicated, caring people. I think you will agree."
Lise H, Executive Director
“I came to CMHA last year to lead an organization that is committed to working with our most vulnerable in the Cowichan Valley and surrounding area. CMHA's vision, mandate, and commitment to providing Compassionate and Community Care Based Services is a journey that I wanted to be part of.
This journey can only be supported by addressing systemic issues, providing safe, strong and supportive services, and continually advocating for social justice for everyone.
Supporting wellness for children, youth, and families with the CMHA team and community partners is critical and sacred work. I am honoured to be working with an organization and a team that is committed to meeting the needs of those we have the honour and privilege to serve. We are better working together.”
Please read Lise's Mental Health Week message to the community here.
Anne B, Associate Executive Director
Adrien H, Shelter Worker, Warmland House
Catherine M, Executive Assistant
Braedon N, Team Lead, Warmland House Shelter
Robyn, BounceBack Coach
Jean F and Ashley O, Adult Outreach Workers
"As outreach workers we take pride in supporting all those who are experiencing many unfortunate factors in life with a judgement free and safe environment. Being able too provide individuals that need our help brings us great joy. We have a client focused approach and provide recourses in hopes of connecting clients with additional support that we cannot provide them."
Kaska W, Sexual Abuse Intervention Program Counsellor and Rainbows Coordinator
"I am passionate about working with children, youth and families and that is why I was drawn to working with CMHA. Being part of an agency that strives to support equal provision of mental health services to all members of the community, I have the privilege and honor to walk alongside children, youth and their caregivers on their healing journey."
Thank you for taking a few minutes to meet some of our key staff at the CMHA-CVB. Please feel free to share this with your networks. We encourage you to make a donation to support our work in a variety of ways including:
Sign up to be a monthly donor
Contribute a one-time donation
- Sponsor a Meal at Warmland
- Support the Warmland Garden by purchasing Blueberry Plants
- Donate to our Rainbows Program for Children
- Become a member of the CMHA Cowichan Valley Branch and have a voice in mental health programming in the community
Encourage a friend or family member to donate to any of the above
- Get in touch with us about organizing a group fundraiser at work or a organizing a collection of much needed items
We recognize that you may be facing challenges with your mental health and/or your finances. If you cannot donate today, that’s okay. We already know you are connected to our work and when the time is right you will be there for us. Some of you have recently donated and for that we THANK YOU!
Other ways to support us includes sharing the programs and services we offer with your networks. If you are active on any social media platforms please follow us and share our posts so that others are able to find the support that they need, or perhaps offer us some support during these extraordinary times.
Thank you for being a champion for the CMHA Cowichan Valley Branch and for your ongoing support. Thank you for taking care of each other and for understanding how important our continued work reducing stigma around mental health and substance use is. Thank you and please take care of yourselves, your friends and families and your neighbours.
We are better standing together.
#MentalHealthWeek2021 #CowichanValley #GetReal #GetLoud
Words of Encouragement
Well, it has now been over one year since we have been challenged by the Covid-19 pandemic. I recognize that it has been a challenging and stressful time for our employees, clients, partners and the community in general.
It has also had a huge impact on the programs and services we provide here at CMHA-CVB. Many difficult decisions have had to be made including shutting down and cutting back services. Our recipients of service - shelter guests, children, youth and families have been greatly impacted as a result of our decisions. Each of these decisions have been made supported by the guiding principle of "Ensuring Safety for All". These decisions have also been supported by our local and provincial public health officials.
CMHA-CVB is committed to supporting mental health needs in the community, and we are also equally committed to supporting staff wellness in our organization. We recognize that coping with Covid-19 brings with it increased stress and anxiety, experiences of loss and grief, uncertainty, and the loss of connection due to social distancing constraints.
Covid-19 has brought "trauma" to our organizations, to the people we work with, and to those we serve. It is important that we all take care of ourselves and each other. Our mental health matters!
Together, we must learn to navigate through the good days and the bad days. So, during Mental Health Week (May 3-9, 2021) I am inviting you to consider the following Self Care Tips:
- Know that we are all in this together.
- Do not isolate - stay connected to people who support, care, and love you. Let your cell phone, computer and social media be your social distance line to keep you connected.
- Learn to be kind to yourself. Create and follow a self care plan. You are worth it. "Self Care is not Selfish".
- Learn to be kind to others. Many people are fighting battles we are not aware of. The sound of your voice or your smile may be the medicine they need. Sometimes the act of helping others helps us.
- Stop occasionally to count your blessings. Many of us are fortunate to be alive, have good health, a home, a job, and family and friends that love us. Adopt an attitude of gratitude.
- Access the Support Services/Mental Health Services you need. The side effects of the pandemic include: increased mental health issues, stress and anxiety, increased use of alcohol and drugs, relapses, overdoses and suicide. Depression is fueled by loss and grief. Pay attention to how you and those around you are coping. There is no shame in reaching out. Resources are available to help you find a path forward. Be an advocate for your family, friends and colleagues who may need help and support.
- Fight loneliness, isolation, and anxiety by searching for joy and moments of connection. Focus on what makes you feel nourished. Feed yourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Take care of yourself at home and at work. Practice kindness and gratitude. Be affirming, respectful, genuine and kind. Let your team contribute to your well-being. Enjoy the health benefits of fun and laughter. Promote being a part of a healthy and strong team.
- Be a warrior - do not let the pandemic take you down. Talk about what's happening for you, listen to others, support one another. Give hope power - hope towards a better future. Have faith in yourself and others - and battle for wellness and change.
- Breathe and go outside - earth and sky, woods, flowers and fields, lakes, rivers and oceans, mountains and landscapes, sun, rain and rainbows can be the best medicine. They protect our sense of wonder and our belief in "hope".
You matter! Your health and wellbeing contributes a healthy community. Thank you for supporting our collective work and remember... we are better standing together!!
Lise Haddock, Executive Director
CMHA Cowichan Valley Branch