Living with LOFT for several years, Chris appreciates not having to hide his life experience
Chris grew up in Parry Sound. He moved to Toronto to attend university, but the new rhythm of life in a big city was a shock for him. After struggling with his studies for two years, he decided to leave university. Soon afterwards, he was hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia. “My family specialist thought my schizophrenia was genetic,” Chris says, “I think it was triggered by the stress and shock of moving.”
Chris remained in hospital for months while waiting to be connected with supportive housing in the community. He was eventually accepted into LOFT’s Wilkinson Housing and Support Services, a program that provides recovery and psychosocial rehabilitation assistance through a peer support model that encourages natural support networks and includes clients in the decision-making process.
LOFT’s co-op model empowers its tenants to run the operations of the residence. Clients take turns paying some of the household expenses, and coordinate house maintenance activities among themselves. A Support Worker visits the program every week to provide advice and assistance as needed.
“Supportive housing was key for me,” Chris explains. “I planned to stay for 5 months but stayed for 5 years.”
“Living at the co-op and in other LOFT housing, I found acceptance,” he says. “It was a relief. It was great to not have to hide my life experience. Tenants were very open and talked about their mental health. It made me feel comfortable. It was one part of my life I didn’t have to stress about.”
Chris decided to go back to school, completing a two-year Library Techniques diploma at Seneca College. He also returned to university while working, taking a few courses on a part-time basis.
Passionate about music, he plays piano for seniors in his own – and the greater – community.
The LOFT’s Speakers Bureau receives his contribution as well. As a personal experience speaker, he emphasizes the importance of seeing the person rather than their diagnosis. “I don’t have room for stigma,” he says. “I’m Chris — the person – first. Schizophrenia is only one facet in a broad spectrum of my life experience.”