Who We Are
The Southern Alberta Self-Help Association (SASHA) is a Lethbridge-based, non-profit, charitable organization that has been improving lives since 1978.
We believe that people with mental illness are valuable, contributing members of society. We work to empower their independence through affordable, tailored programming and supportive housing.
Individuals who have suffered from often complex challenges discover their worth, their abilities and their independence. We believe in fostering individual freedom to make choices and take responsibility, so that individuals gain the confidence to make decisions about the directions they will take in their lives. Many of the hundreds of people that SASHA has empowered have gone on to live confident, healthy lives in our communities.
"I would like people to know that the SASHA Program, staff and clients is the best thing that has happened to me."
- Wesley, former SASHA Client
SASHA provides a wide range of services based on the needs of individuals with mental illness in our community. These services include transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, community living support, meaningful daily activity, access to free household furnishings and supplies through our SASHA store, and much more.
SASHA’s History of Innovative Approaches and Programming
SASHA was an early innovator in the realm of mental health support. Empowering individuals with mental illness to make decisions about their own lives and wellbeing was not common practice in 1978 when we began operations.
In our first residence at Annandale House, SASHA created a family atmosphere where residents were expected to take responsibility for housework such as cleaning and cooking. Residents and staff were also empowered to vote on who would be accepted to live at the house in the 10 available beds. These practices distinguished SASHA from other group homes where residents were not engaged in any decision making.
While funding restrictions and concerns about conflict of interest eventually ended voting about who could become a resident, empowering clients to make decisions about their lives increased. SASHA discovered many positive results with our unique approach. Normally withdrawn individuals were helping each other and communicating with staff and co-residents. Residents were finding jobs and attending courses at Lethbridge College.
Throughout our history, SASHA has continued to empower individuals to build the capacity to confidently make decisions toward healthy, independent lives. In the 1990’s, SASHA created an independent living suite in the basement of House B. This residence allowed clients to practice independent apartment living by taking responsibility for things such as buying their own groceries, and planning and implementing their own schedule. The client still had the support of SASHA staff if needed, but if all went, well they would move out and put practice into action. This program continued successfully until March of 2009.
Today SASHA continues to lead best practices in empowering individuals with mental health illness to lead healthy lives. We continuously evolve to meet the unique and complex needs of our clients, never wavering in our belief that each person is valuable. As our communities change and encounter greater mental health challenges, we pledge to share our expertise, while willingly innovating to ensure that safe, supportive and inspiring programs and spaces are ready for those who choose to walk through our doors.
SASHA gets permission from Alberta Mental Health Services to open a halfway house. Historic Annandale House in central Lethbridge is leased, and SASHA opens its doors in November with room for 10 full time residents and 2 emergency beds.
In September SASHA purchases House A (located a few blocks south of Annandale House) and moves to SASHA’s new home. There is room for 8 tenants and the SASHA office.
Demand for SASHA’s service increase, and SASHA rents House B (the house next door to House A), doubling client capacity to 16. House B includes a fully funded crisis bed. In February 1983, SASHA purchases House B.
The crisis bed in House B becomes a respite bed, allowing a safe place for individuals retreating from stressful living situations or waiting for permanent housing.
In March SASHA purchases House C, increasing its capacity by 9 more beds so SASHA can support 25 clients.
In the spring Frito Lay donates a trailer to SASHA. The trailer becomes the SASHA Store, a place to accept donations of household furniture and goods from the community so SASHA could make these available for free to people in need.
In November SASHA launches SASHA 2.0 in partnership with Lethbridge Housing Authority. SASHA 2.0 allows clients to move into subsidized housing where they have more independence, yet can still get support from SASHA when and if they need it (including returning to SASHA for short stays if they need more support). SASHA 2.0 has 2 rental units with room for 5 clients.
In April SASHA begins 24 hour operations, funded by Alberta Health Services in support of the Community Treatment Order (CTO) program. CTO clients are mandated to participate in the SASHA program by the Court, in accordance with the Mental Health Act. 5 of SASHA’s residential beds are designated for this service.
In April SASHA also launches the Community Clients Program. This program is for former SASHA clients who are successfully living independently in the community, but who continue to access SASHA staff and programs to maintain good mental health. SASHA Community clients are supported on their independence journey, while also encouraged to connect and engage with additional community resources.
After engaging in strategic planning to assess new and emerging community needs in January, SASHA creates a bold strategy to expand capacity in order to serve individuals with complex mental illness complicated by physical impairment, addictions, and advanced age.