Mavis is what society calls a “bag lady.”
She has lived on the streets for more than 30 years and has been in and out of mental health facilities.
She does not really understand her schizophrenia, or what it means, but is pleasant when she is well. Her only support comes from family members outside of the city who visit a couple times per year.
When Mavis first came to The Stepping Stone Project, staff could not entice her to go further than the front lobby at John Gibson House, let alone to allow herself to be helped. Even after two months, she does not sleep in her bed, only on couches around the house.
However, LOFT staff members are seeing some changes. Mavis has started doing her own laundry. She has also started to bathe herself about once a week with the help of staff. (She simply refused to shower for the first few weeks.)
Most of the time, Mavis is quite pleasant with staff and residents, but just like everyone, she has her ups and downs. Someone who has known her for thirty years commented that she has never seen Mavis stay in one place for this long.
The Stepping Stone staff are now very hopeful that Mavis will be able to make a successful transition to permanent housing within LOFT. She still may not sleep in a bed, but she will be off the street after thirty years.
This story was written in 2010 a few months after Mary had joined The Stepping Stone Project at John Gibson House. We called her “Mavis” to protect her privacy. Mary’s story with LOFT ended in January, 2013. Here is her eulogy, written by a personal support worker at John Gibson House who had come to be her friend.
MARY STADNIK, 1937 – 2013
Mary Stadnik was born February 22, 1937 in Timmins, Ontario, and passed away on January 12, 2013, in John Gibson House. She is survived by her sister Anna and one nephew. For decades Mary was pejoratively referred to as a “bag lady” and was an ionic figure of Queen Street West. She was a feature of the local scene at CAMH and the small coffee shops and bus shelters surrounding the hospital. She was a strong, independent woman who carried all her possessions with her in shopping bags. To most it looked like trash, to her it was all she had in life. She was set in her own way and never expected anything from anyone. After many decades Mary finally left CAMH and settled into John Gibson House and allowed people to help her but not without putting up a fight. She developed meaningful relationships with other residents and staff. Despite having a bed to sleep in and a room of her own, she would still give you a gentle smile, heave up her bags and shuffle along the halls of John Gibson House to her favourite spot to sleep. Despite the many hard traveled roads she had taken in her life, over the last few years Mary allowed those who worked closely with her to find a way into her heart. She spent her last few moments in a place she finally called home.
Written by Laura Pye, Senior PSW
John Gibson House