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Close Call: How France Was Saved from the Street

27 January 2020

France woke up in the hospital one morning with no recollection of how she got there. Afraid and confused, she was released only to realize that she had no place to live. She had lost everything.

France suffered from severe mental illness and struggled with alcoholism, a near lethal combination for her on that fateful day. She had a blackout and set fire to her rooming house.

“Back then, I heard voices and had visual hallucinations,” says France. “It was unbearable.”

A Narrow Escape from the Street

Having made her way to the Mission’s Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion, she met with Dr. Lison Gagné, a psychiatrist who evaluated her mental health and provided her with treatment as part of the Projet de réaffiliation en itinérance et santé mentale (PRISM) program. “France had a serious problem with alcohol for many years and developed symptoms of psychosis,” Dr. Gagné explains.

“They gave me a bed and in the two and a half months or so that I was there, I met with the care workers I needed,” France recalls. “They were always there if I needed them.”

That team of care workers included Mission counsellors and intervention workers, accessible 24/7 at the pavilion, as well as Nathalie Ménard, PRISM social worker. “France was facing criminal charges because of the fire, so there was a whole legal process: find a lawyer, go to court. It was extremely stressful, so she needed coaching, support, validation,” explains Nathalie.

“Receiving services in a clinic is demanding for the patients. They have to go to the clinic and when someone isn’t doing well, it’s really hard. They may not be capable of going, so we have to adjust services for people who are in serious distress,” says Dr. Gagné.

Moving On

France went on to spend some time living at the Mission’s Maison des voisines de Lanaudière, shared apartments for women who are ready to take another step towards independence. Here, she took the time she needed to gain her footing before finally moving into a place of her own.

“They connected me with resources to completely stop drinking. I’m proud of myself—I no longer need to drink to supress anything,” France says. “[The Mission] saved my life and it saved me from the street.”

Woman getting a standing ovation in the middle of a crowd.
France bravely shared her story at a press conference in January 2019, on Bell Let’s Talk Day.

For more on the press conference, click here.

PRISM at a Glance:

  • In 2013, PRISM began at the Old Brewery Mission with 10 beds for men. This number has increased to 16.
  • In 2015, the Old Brewery Mission opened 10 beds for women at the Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion
  • In 2017, Welcome Hall Mission opened 8 beds for men and Accueil Bonneau followed suit with 10 beds.
  • In 2020, 44 beds are available among the 3 organisations, including 10 for women at the Old Brewery Mission’s Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion.
  • 54% of men successfully transitioned out of homeless in 2018 at the Old Brewery Mission and 75%of women at the Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion.

To support PRISM and help others like France who are experiencing homelessness and struggling with serious mental illness, donate now.


Bell Let’s Talk Day

Join in on the conversation to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness! On January 29, 2020, Bell will donate an additional 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs for every:

  • Text message sent and every long distance or mobile call made through the Bell network
  • Tweet and retweet using the #BellLetsTalk hashtag
  • Bell Let’s Talk Day video view on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube
  • Use of the Facebook frame or Snapchat filter

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