Finding her voice through gardening: Patricia’s Story

Struggling with mental and physical health challenges for years, Patricia found a welcoming community at LOFT’s McEwan Housing and Support Services program.

Originally from South America, Patricia survived abuse and a troubled relationship with her family before deciding to immigrate to Canada. Overwhelmed and suffering from physical and mental health challenges, she had difficulty adjusting to life in her new country.

Isolated and struggling, Patricia found herself unable to deal with the traumatic experiences of her past.  In 2004 she was referred to LOFT’s community support program, and then, in 2013, she moved to McEwan Housing and Support Services, a high support house for adults with HIV/AIDS in combination with mental health and/or addiction issues and a history of homelessness. At LOFT, Patricia finally received the help she needed.

When she first arrived at McEwan, Patricia was severely depressed. Assigned a caseworker, she slowly learned to manage her chronic pain, transition, hormone therapy and mental health, but refused to leave her room or talk to the other residents. She had no friends, and was reluctant to engage in conversation with others. “I was always afraid, especially of men,” she remembers.

Aware of her challenges, the McEwan team looked for creative ways to connect Patricia to the world around her. Her caseworker placed her in the brightest room they had at McEwan. The sunlight not only helped with her mood, but became a vital part of a newfound hobby: gardening.

Patricia’s depression had led to excessive weight loss as she struggled to stay healthy. After learning that she loved to cook, her caseworker suggested that Patricia grow vegetables to use in her recipes. In the summer of 2015, Patricia started to plant seeds in what would soon become a beautiful garden. “I would buy pots and soil with my own money and plant a lot of different vegetables, tomatoes and flowers,” she tells us. “People from the house would come to see what was growing.”

This marked a turning point in Patricia’s life. Gardening gave her an activity to look forward to, and something to be proud of. Once shy and afraid, Patricia found her voice.

With support, she developed friendships with the residents and staff at McEwan. Patricia even began to cook for her peers. “I was so happy. I found something I could share with others,” she says.

Today, living independently and with dignity in her own apartment, Patricia is able to manage her medications and interact successfully with her community. She remembers her time at McEwan with gratitude. “My social worker played a huge part in my life. She helped me, and gave me someone to count on. For the first time in my life, I truly have a home.”


LOFT’s McEwan Housing and Support Services is a co-op house for adults with HIV/AIDS in combination with mental health and/or addiction issues and a history of homelessness.