Healing centre prepares to open its doors

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By Nick Seebruch
Healing centre prepares to open its doors
Director of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne's Department of Community and Social Services Karen Hill and Outreach Worker Eddie Cajigas in front of the Healing Centre on Second St. in Cornwall (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario – The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) is prepared to launch a new service at the Care Centre on Second St. in Cornwall to support some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Dubbed the Healing Centre, the MCA has leased and refurbished much of the ground floor of the former Cornwall General Hospital and turned it into a 11-room homeless shelter and early recovery healing centre.

Each room is equipped with one bed, a microwave, a fridge, and in most cases a bathroom with a communal shower. Initially, these rooms are envisioned as having single client occupants, but Healing Centre staff said that clients may be asked to double up if demand is great enough.

Clients of the centre will be provided with breakfast and lunch which will be prepared in the onsite kitchen with food that is also kept onsite. Dinner will be provided by the owners of the Care Centre.

The Healing Centre will be staffed 24/7 with staff from the MCA’s Department of Community and Social Services.

The client rooms include eight rooms for men, two for women, located at the front of the building near the security office, as well as a family apartment.

Clients will have access to medical staff and mental health therapists onsite, as well as an onsite legal liaison office.

There also will be an education room where clients will be able to take courses on addiction management, job searching, skills training and more. Additionally, there will be a recreational and workout area with a tv, and workout equipment.

The MCA also wanted to support clients who might not be ready for residential services by offering comprehensive wrap around services through their Outreach team.

The Healing Centre will have secure lockers where those who do not have a home can keep their belongings, as well as providing these individuals with backpacks with supplies they may need in their day-to-day lives.

Karen Hill, Director of the MCA’s Department of Community and Social Services said that the Healing Centre was envisioned to address a serious issue in the community, and that as it prepares to open its doors, it already has a waiting list long enough to see all of its rooms filled on day one. The Healing Centre plans on opening as soon as possible and is just waiting on the approval of permits from the City of Cornwall.

Hill said that she wanted to ensure that the Healing Centre staff were understanding and welcoming to those struggling with addiction or homelessness.

“It is so important to have people who are welcoming,” she said. “I think that a lot of people in that situation feel hopeless and that is something we want to provide for them, hope.”

While the healing Centre is 100 per cent funded by the MCA, Hill stressed that their future success would not be possible without the support of the Cornwall community, for which she was grateful.

In addition to the support they have received from the Care Centre, the Healing Centre has also received support from the City of Cornwall, the Cornwall Police Service and local businesses like grocery stores who have provided donations to their food bank.

The Healing Centre was conceived of earlier this year to respond to problems of homelessness and drug addiction that the MCA identified in the local area. Healing Centre Outreach Worker Eddie Cajigas said that they were actively monitoring and working to support a group of homeless individuals who they were aware and are currently living in tents near the St. Lawrence River in the Cornwall area.

“We will be monitoring this issue and hopefully be proactive in providing a solution,” said Cajigas.

Cajigas explained that the Healing Centre program is not going to pass judgement over the circumstances their clients find themselves in, but rather, give them the support to live a better life.

“Our mindset is that relapsing into old habits isn’t a failure, the failure is in the mindset that things can’t get better,” he said.

While Indigenous clients will be prioritized at the Healing Centre, its services are open to all adults aged 16 and over based on availability.

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