LAMDA and Calgary Housing Company Celebrate Over 30 Years of Partnership
LAMDA is a mental health and housing support agency. They’ve partnered with Calgary Housing Company for over 30 years and work as community advocates for those experiencing mental illnesses.
LAMDA was founded by Dr. Mary Dumka. Dr. Dumka is a psychiatrist who was overseeing care for several clients in the same building in SW Calgary. She saw the need for supportive living for her clients and so began the LAMDA society. The organization opened its first building in 1990 with funding from the Alberta Heritage Fund. Several residents at the building have lived there since it opened. LAMDA operate out of two Calgary Housing Company apartment buildings, providing valuable community supports and psychiatric supports to those residents.
CHC recently reached out to LAMDA to discuss the last 30 years of partnership and the work they’ve been doing with residents.
Could you talk about the importance of community supports for someone living with a mental illness?
Community supports are fundamental to happy and successful independent living for those with mental illness. Any marginalized group needs community support to live a healthy independent lifestyle and those with mental disabilities are no different. Having a home is basic to stability, leading to wellness and resilience. However, the idea of having a home is often not possible for people who experience mental illness, because most of the specialized housing is transitional, attached to residential treatment programs, and often segregated. At LAMDA, having a home in the community often results in a feeling of having family. Friendships are formed and care is freely given and received among the tenants.
What are some of the barriers someone with a mental illness faces when navigating service providers and how do your support workers help with that?
Communication and technical issues to begin with. Organizing schedules and appointments and accessing transportation to get to the services and service providers can be a challenge. Our staff helps tenants with organization, transportation, and communication with service providers. Once trust, respect and a relationship are built, our staff assesses and supports tenants. Staff also can communicate with the service providers to share concerns and insights.
What are some facts about Schizophrenia that people may not know?
Many people do not know the prevalence of the illness and that it can be managed successfully with proper supports and usually medication.
About 1 in 100 Canadians have schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is not an IQ issue. In many cases schizophrenia can be managed with medication. There is a full spectrum of symptoms and treatments. It is a disease that requires regular and ongoing assessment and management. When supports are offered in a timely fashion, our tenants can continue to lead meaningful and productive lives.
What are some common misconceptions or stigmas people might have about Schizophrenia?
It is not curable, but is manageable with support, consistency, medication adherence, and stable housing.
There is a common belief that many with schizophrenia are violent and “crazy” and will never lead “normal” lives. These types of things hit the news and are such a misconception. Many people with schizophrenia go on to getting married and having families, have paid employment or volunteer, and have a sense of purpose and great quality of life. In fact, according to recent research, persons with schizophrenia are more likely to be the victims of violence than to perpetuate violence.
Do you offer skill development to residents? If so, what kinds of programming do you offer?
We have just been approved for a Home Improvement Program that will offer computer classes for our tenants. In house computers will be available for residents to access.
Staff also assist residents with activities of daily living if needed.
Staff assess when a resident needs extra assistance but the goal is to allow for as much independent living as possible. Skills such as cooking, shopping, socializing, exercise, hobbies, and banking are fostered.
LAMDA staff supports include liaison with tenants’ individual mental health service providers, but do not involve treatments or interventions. First and foremost, LAMDA is a home.
One of the reasons for LAMDA’s exceptional success is that it is a safe and permanent home, not a temporary residential treatment facility. The role of a person in the support of housing is one of a “tenant” not a “client”, and the tenant “carries the keys” and is in power to make decisions about his or her own lifestyle.
What resources should someone access to learn more about schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia Society of Alberta, Calgary Chapter and the Canadian Mental Health Association.