SASHA was given the go ahead by Alberta Mental Health Services for a half-way house in Lethbridge August of 1978, and opened its doors November of 1978. In the beginning SASHA leased the Annandale House in Lethbridge; the needs of the residents dictated a central location that was close to amenities as many of them didn’t have vehicles; the Annandale house was an ideal location.
SASHA started with two coordinators; in the Annandale house there was room for 10 full-time residents with two emergency beds. Originally residents and staff voted on who would be accepted or rejected, which was unusual for the time, normally residents of group homes were not allowed to make decisions. SASHA was a family type atmosphere and residents were expected to do all the work around the house such as cleaning and cooking. If someone was not suitable for the home there had to be a majority vote from the staff and residents. The vote of residents was ended later on due to restrictions of funding partners and conflicts of interest.
SASHA experienced positive results early on with its program, individuals that were normally withdrawn were helping each other and communicating with staff and co-residents, residents were finding jobs and attending courses at the college, these were the first successes of many.
SASHA spent two years at the Annandale house before planting its roots, September of 1980, in the home where its offices now reside (House A).
There was an increasing demand for the support that SASHA offered so the house next door to House A was rented. Eventually in February of 1983 SASHA purchased its second home (House B) increasing its capacity to support 16 clients.
In 1987 SASHA opened a Bicycle repair shop, which gave SASHA a little more money to better take care of our clients as well as giving a sense of accomplishment and providing a meaningful activity for our clients. The bicycle repair shop was eventually dismantled in 1989.
The two emergency beds that originally existed in the Annandale house were transitioned to a fully funded crisis bed when house B was rented. The crisis bed had a staff member within arm’s reach for the whole time the client was there. The crisis bed eventually became a respite bed in 2001 which allows an individual to retreat from a situation that may be causing stress, or to provide a safe place while permanent housing can be found.
In 2002 SASHA held a contest for residents to create our logo, the SASHA Logo was designed
In March of 2003 SASHA purchased its third home (House C) increasing its capacity to support 25 clients.
Starting in the 90’s SASHA had an independent living suite located in the basement of House B. It was a residence where clients who wanted more independence could stay. A client could practice apartment living; buying their own groceries and scheduling, planning and implementing their own schedule while having the support of the staff should they need it. If all went well they would move out and put practice into action. There was only room for one person at a time. This program was ended in March of 2009 and the independent living suite was converted into a board room.
The spring of 2010 SASHA received a trailer from Frito Lay, and the SASHA “Store” was created, the store is used for donations that SASHA receives from the community which are available to those in need of furniture, to shop for free.
Independent living support was provided to clients for three months after they graduated from the SASHA program, support was given to help with the transition from SASHA to community living. This program was provided until funding was pulled in 2007. In November of 2013 SASHA started a program, similar to Independent living support, called SASHA 2.0. Some of the clients were not in need of all of SASHA’s services and were ready for more independence but not quite ready to leave SASHA altogether.
To accommodate them, SASHA, in partnership with the Lethbridge Housing Authority, started SASHA 2.0. This program allows SASHA’s clients to move into subsidized housing where they have more independence, as well as more permanent housing, while still receiving support from SASHA when and if they need it. Clients may return to SASHA for short stays if they are having difficulty and need more support. So far SASHA has two rental units, room for five clients to utilize its services.
From its inception SASHA has only had staff present on the premises from 8 am to 7 pm and then 8 am to 9pm in 2000, which limited the ability of the program to fully serve the mental health population. Some cases are more complex and require staff to be present more often, in case of an emergency or to provide support. In April of 2014 SASHA, with the help of the Community Treatment Order (CTO) program, commenced 24hr operations. CTO clients have been mandated by the court, in accordance with the Mental Health Act, to participate in the SASHA program. Their needs are greater and sometimes more complicated. Alberta Health Services provides funds to support these individuals 24 hours a day. Five of our residential beds have been designated for this service.
In April of 2014 SASHA started the community clients program. Community clients are individuals that used to live in SASHA’s residential program and have moved out on their own. For a number of reasons they continue to seek out staff and visit current clients, staying connected with SASHA. SASHA formalized it and created this program. They are registered as a Community Client so they can benefit from some of our services while being encouraged to use and/or be referred to community resources. The program has enabled SASHA staff to keep up with clients that have moved on, by reaching out to support them as they progress through life.