Years ago, Steven was working in Halifax for the federal government. He had a family and a job, but he was also living with undiagnosed and untreated schizophrenia and depression. When he started to struggle, he lost his job, and things progressively fell apart. For years afterward, Steven was homeless and worked as a general labourer on construction sites across Canada, including in Edmonton.
Steven said it was particularly difficult to be homeless in Edmonton. He got into trouble with police for loitering in transit shelters to stay warm, and once got gangrene from untreated frostbite. Throughout all of this, Steven’s schizophrenia went undiagnosed, making it difficult for him to access the services he would need to get on his feet.
Eventually, the police who picked Steven up for loitering asked for a psychiatric evaluation, at which point he received a diagnosis and was placed in a medical facility, where he received treatment for a year and a half.
Steven was then referred to a supportive housing facility focused on individuals living with schizophrenia. Steven described supportive housing as “a stable, predictable environment,” which has been important for his mental well-being over the past 4 years. The community provides him with a good balance between socialization and privacy — he can go to his apartment when he feels overwhelmed or spend time with other residents in the common areas when he wants the company.
Steven likes the concerts and events that the staff sometimes host in the building for residents and the surrounding community, but other than that he doesn’t like to go out very much. He told us he doesn’t like to draw attention to himself. Sometimes he likes to go for walks or even occasionally make interesting purchases at Value Village.
For the future, Steven is hoping to stay in supportive housing. The help he receives in supportive housing, like medication management, assistance in managing his finances, and social support is important to him, and to maintaining a good quality of life.
When asked what he would like people outside of supportive housing to know about his experience, Steven said that while he knows his life story and day-to-day life might not be the same as a typical person, he feels safe and comfortable after many years of struggle, and is happy where he is.