A Welcome Home Success Story: “My Dad”
“With the support of Bayview Community Services, I was able to spend many good years with my father. I can honestly say they gave me my father back.”
For 22 years, Nick Brieger had a safe and supportive place to live, a place he could call home. That was important to him and to the people who loved him as they all struggled for many years to cope with the debilitating effects of Nick’s schizophrenia.
“I think the greatest thing that Bayview Community Services gave our family was peace of mind,” says Anne-Sophie Brieger. “It was knowing that my father was safe and that he was not alone.”
Nick had been a high school teacher with a young family before he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the early 70’s, experiencing symptoms often associated with the disease – chronic anxiety, obsessive thinking and depression. Finding it difficult to care for his special needs, Nick lived independently for a while before it came to the point when his family feared they had run out of options.
That’s when they learned about Bayview Community Services, a Toronto-based charity that raises money to provide residential housing for people dealing with severe and prolonged mental illnesses. Through Bayview, Nick was able to begin a new chapter of his life.
“At the Co-op, Dad had a stable home environment living with residents who became a second family to him,” Anne-Sophie says. “There were counselors who visited him regularly, activities and outings to take part in, along with instruction to learn life skills that gave my father a sense of independence.”
The residence is located in a nice neighbourhood where Nick had his own room and access to a kitchen but he was especially fond of what he called the “Man Cave” – the Co-op’s basement where he hung out to read, sleep or watch sports like baseball and hockey which were his passion. When Nick passed away in 2013, Ann-Sophie honoured her father’s memory by raising money to renovate the “Man Cave” with some new leather furniture, and a large screen TV.
“People read about mental illness everyday in the newspapers but they don’t know about what services are out there to help,” says Anne-Sophie. They are often surprised to learn about residential housing projects such as those provided by Bayview that made such difference to my father and our family.”
A Welcome Home Success Story: Peggy Young
“Living in the Co-op I have a sense of security, peace of mind and a community that I would not have otherwise. It has given me a place that I can call home.”
– Peggy Young, 56, Bayview Community Services Co-op resident
The first thing that you notice about Peggy is how happy she is. She positively lights up talking about her broad range of interests and hobbies from reading, to family genealogy, to her love of knitting. Peggy is also the first to admit how much her life has improved since the time, when following a successful career as a supply teacher, something went terribly wrong. Severely depressed, alone, isolated and rapidly losing weight, Peggy ended up in the emergency ward of a hospital that eventually led to a diagnosis of “chronic depression”.
Initially, after Peggy was released into a day program, she lived in a shelter. It was almost a year before she discovered Bayview Community Services. With such a shortage of good residential housing for people dealing with severe and prolonged mental illness, Peggy considers herself one of the lucky ones that now has a place she can call home.
“Anytime I feel anxious, depressed or have a problem that needs solving, I have people that I can turn to and I get the support I need,” Peggy says.
That support comes from the other residents at the Co-op where Peggy, who is retired now, is admired for her skill on “Jeopardy” her favorite TV show and one she watches faithfully Monday to Friday. “Everyone in the house says I should be on that show!”
At the Co-op, with its spacious rooms and gleaming hard wood floors, Peggy, like the other residents has the privacy of her own room (which Peggy jokes is off limits to visitors!), while also sharing the communal space of a full kitchen, dining room, living room and rec room along with cable TV and internet access.
A residential counselor visits Peggy twice a week and like the other residents, Peggy has access to other outsides services that include everything from nutritionists to occupational therapists.
As well, there are social events such outings to Niagara Falls and African Lion Safari, as well as the backyard summer barbecues for family and friends.
“There are so little appropriate residential housing for people like me,” Peggy adds. “There should be more because I am happy living here and I want to thank Bayview Community Services for giving me my life back.”