Home again

From left to right: Alan Norris, Bob Patrick and Eva Friesen

Story by James Mottershead, Calgary Foundation 

Home again

Bob Patrick had a home once. He was married, had a stable job, had a family and even a luxury car; however, in a matter of months he lost everything due to the onset of serious mental illness. He lost his entire life as he knew it— his home, his marriage and his family.

After his mental breakdown, he needed to rent an apartment. It was intended to be a temporary arrangement and a short-term solution, but he ended up living there for over eight years. It never felt like home to him and, because of his illness, it became a place that he feared and resented. It was a rundown rental unit with dilapidated conditions, old appliances and pest infestation problems. He was never able to organize and clean the unit to an acceptable standard. He was paralyzed by fear and grief; fearing the life he was living and grieving the life he had lost. He was punishing himself and his mental illness was becoming increasingly oppressive. He suffers from clinical depression, anxiety and delusional paranoia and was not receiving the help or treatment that he needed. His worsening paranoia had convinced him that his apartment was unsafe, so he took to sleeping in his car or on a park bench if the weather was warm enough.

He was still working at this time as a sales professional, arriving at work unshaven and unwashed, and still in his business suit. His personal hygiene eventually led to his dismissal from the job. His condition had now rendered him unemployed and unable to make ends meet. He had used all of his savings and could not hold down multiple minimum wage jobs because he was so unreliable. His lack of income led to an eviction notice from his rental apartment and he was now unemployed and soon to be homeless. His oppressive feelings of depression and hopelessness had taken over, and led him to thoughts of suicide.

One day, he called his sister to say goodbye. He had made a plan to end his life. He describes the decision as “death was the only light at the tunnel—it made perfect sense.” His sister pleaded with him to hold on and not give up. She flew from Toronto to Calgary the next morning, and literally saved his life. His sister successfully halted the eviction, made arrangements for Bob to begin receiving social assistance and helped him investigate the possibility of supported housing.

Bob then became a successful tenant of Horizon Housing, a nonprofit organization providing affordable, integrated and supported homes to over 700 Calgarians. Horizon Housing is one of nine partners in the RESOLVE Campaign whose first-of-a-kind, community-driven fundraising Campaign is aimed at creating a diverse mix of affordable rental units in Calgary. RESOLVE is about providing affordable and supported housing for 3,000 vulnerable and homeless Calgarians. He calls his new apartment “the loft” and considers it his first “real home” in many years. The Calgary Foundation sees the value in the RESOLVE Campaign and the work that the campaign does, and provided a $2 million gift in 2015.

Horizon Housing provided a place where Bob can live in peace and continue to heal and manage his illness. Bob explained that he is “one of the lucky ones who is managing well, but there are so many people in desperate need for supported housing in Calgary. Whether it is mental illness, physical disability or low income, people in need want to better their lives—a chance to heal and grow.”