Connections Place History

Moms Like Us started out as a few moms who got together over coffee, about two years ago, to discuss their children’s mental health challenges.  They found they had a lot in common - including their kids being at risk of homelessness at least once in their life – serious stuff!

Because they were able to support their youth, they managed to keep their kids safe and help bridge that precarious gap between hospital and home life.  They slowly learned from each other about programs that might help their children.  It never ceased to amaze them that all of this information was not combined in one place – so hard for them to navigate and comprehend – they could not imagine what it would be like for someone who was not 100% well or didn’t have family support.  So began the Moms Like Us journey – for the people out there who don’t have moms like us.

It was during this time that Jackie Powell's neighbor mentioned how the 'Clubhouse' in Winnipeg helps his brother so much – he even quit smoking due to the support of the Clubhouse. He went on to explain that Christmas Day is special at the Clubhouse and his brother chooses to go there first, before visiting family. This got Jackie very curious!  At the time, her son was isolating, had no friends, slept a great deal and was very anxious and depressed.  It was hard on the whole family to see him in this condition.  They were heart-broken.

Jackie decided to use the time her son was sleeping to start checking out this Clubhouse business.  First, she tracked down the Clubhouse number in Winnipeg, and they referred her to the Clubhouse in Port Alberni and then they referred her to the Clubhouse in Richmond – Pathways. The group of moms first visit to Pathways was on St. Patrick’s Day of 2014 and their progress in spreading the word in Victoria has been non-stop since!  They were inspired by what they saw and began working to bring a Clubhouse International to Victoria. Moms Like Us is currently in talks with Island Health. They now have over 1000 signatures of support from individuals and all of their local MLA’s have written letters of support – Carole James, Andrew Weaver, Lana Popham, Maurine Kargianis and Rob Flemming. All three police chiefs, along with Mayor Helps of Victoria, Mayor Nils Jensen of Oak Bay, Don Evans with Our Place, Cairine Green Oak Bay Councillor, and the Vancouver Island Criminal Justice Association, MP Murray Rankin, MP Elizabeth May, MLA Carole James, family physicians – and so on – the community is 100% behind Moms Like Us. They have teamed up with the Bipolar Disorder Society of BC - Bipolar Babe to help stomp out the stigma of mental illness and are gaining more partners by the day.

Check out the May 21st Town Hall Meeting where Lisa Helps, now Victoria Mayor, assisted the group with introducing Clubhouse International to 95 people at Pacific Rim College in Vicoria. The Director and a Clubhouse member offered a presentation from Pathways and did a fantastic job explaining how this evidence based model of psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR) helps people get back into life – be it with gaining employment, going back to school, having meaningful relationships plus gaining purpose back in their lives. Moms Like Us have become well known as an unstoppable force in Victoria, BC and will not concede until an Accredited Clubhouse International is achieved.

In 2016 Connections Place grew and developed from Moms Like Us.  Moms Like Us was Formed in March 2014 by a group of passionate parents who are caregivers of adult children living with mental illness. The majority of us had healthy children who became ill in their late teens or early 20’s.

It is estimated that there is a minimum of 80,000 people living with a mental illness in the Greater Victoria Area. Where exactly are they? How do they spend their time? Do they have family and friends? Are they partaking in employment? Can or do they attend school? Where do they live? Do they have an addiction? Are they isolating? Are they homeless? Is there police involvement? The questions are endless.

Sadly, people fall through the cracks of society because these questions are not properly addressed and this is why the Moms Like Us group formed. We could see how easily our very own, much loved, much wanted children might have ended up on the street or worse. Without adequate access to mental health services - homelessness, poverty, addiction, crime and repeated hospitalizations are common outcomes.

How did we get our name? In early 2014 we met with Mayor Lisa Helps, who was at this time a City Councilor. We explained how we had discovered a program that has been around since 1948 called ‘Clubhouse International’ that rebuilds lives of those with a mental illness. As we were leaving the meeting Cherry Lynn Brown (co-founder) said, “we are doing this not just for our own children but for people who do not have moms like us.” Mayor Helps said, “That is your name!”

We have learned a great deal about the services available to people with mental illness and we are particularly focused on psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR). Rehabilitation is crucial to get people back on track and to help steer them on the right path to a fulfilling meaningful life that is complete with friends and family.

Through networking, research and reaching out to the community, Clubhouse International was discovered and we as parents have been advocating relentlessly ensuring this community-based model of rehabilitation is established in our community. Clubhouse will complement existing services and bring an evidence based, scientifically proven model to our community that will rebuild lives and save tax dollars.

Joel D. Corcoran, Executive Director of Clubhouse International has stated, “One thing we know for sure is that people living with mental illness are often alone, overlooked and invisible in their own communities. We also know that if their situation were turned around, these same individuals would thrive.”

Since 1948, Clubhouse International has learned through research, study and experience that access to a caring community of support can make all the difference for a person isolated by his or her disability. Belonging somewhere, in a caring community, might be the single most effective and accessible means of preventing acts of desperation, hospitalization, imprisonment or worse.

It will widen the tent of our society. In place of isolation, hopelessness and despair, people living with mental illness in Victoria and vicinity will experience community, employment, hope and a reason to wake up in the morning. This is why Moms Like Us was formed – to bring not just hope but real and meaningful changes to the lives of our loved ones.