RRFN opens transitional housing facility to help addictions recovery

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Rainy River First Nations (RRFN) is celebrating the opening of a new complex of transitional housing units intended to give those recovering from addictions treatment the best possible chance to get back on their feet and stay sober.

At a grand opening ceremony on Thursday, October 27, 2022, members of the community attended a ribbon cutting event and lunch for the Rainy River First Nations Recovery Transitional Home, and were invited to take tours of the housing units and supplementary buildings. The home is the result of work done within the community to bring more support for those recovering from addictions treatment, and has adapted the temporary isolation units the First Nation had brought in during the COVID-19 pandemic.

April Beaulieu is the interim Recovery Transitional Manager for the units, and she explained that the whole purpose is to ensure that any community member coming back from addictions treatment has the space to solidify new habits and ways of life that can help to keep them from relapsing.

“This is a critical piece of the recovery process,” Beaulieu said.

“It enables clients who are awaiting treatment and completed detox, or clients returning from addictions treatment to build on skills and habits learned while in treatment. It also helps clients develop sober social relationships and participate in sober living activities. The transitional home officially opened in May 2022 and staff prepared the home for the first client arriving July 2022. Currently we have three clients and the program will be filling our fourth bed soon.”

As part of their stay at the transitional home, clients are given their own private living area and access to two other buildings where they can take part in programming, as well as do their own cooking, laundry and continue to develop other life skills.

“We offer daily structured programming, which includes morning meditation, group sessions, daily living skills, cooking, cleaning, cultural and land-based activities,” Beaulieu said.

“Clients also host NA meetings every Sunday night at the band office at 8:00 p.m., so if you or someone you know is struggling, please join us.”

Beaulieu explained that clients accepted into the housing are picked up right from their treatment facility and brought to their new living space, and that those clients can then stay at the facility for up to two years, during which time they will continue to receive support, guidance and counselling through the program.

RRFN council member Leona McGinnis was invited to speak at the grand opening, and she highlighted the necessity of these kinds of programs in First Nations communities, particularly as many small municipalities across the province are dealing with an influx of drug related overdoses and deaths.

“I lost my oldest son to drugs and overdose, two years ago in September,” McGinnis said.

Rainy River First Nations’ addictions program director Dean McMahon, left, council member Leona McGinnis, interim Recovery Transitional Manager April Beaulieu and Art Hunter cut the ribbon to officially open the First Nations’ Recovery Transitional Home on Thursday, October 27, 2022. – Ken Kellar photo

“I don’t know if he would have ever participated in treatment. I don’t know that, I will never know it. But I need to help this program in his honour. Hopefully through that I will help my grandsons and my great-grandsons live a healthy life without the use of substances. That’s my hope. My hopes for people suffering from addictions is free treatment. What I am hoping for is that Canada and Ontario include addictions under OHIP like other illnesses, like cancer, like heart disease. Canada spent a lot of money on COVID, they spend a lot of money on methadone clinics. They need to turn that money towards treatment.”

McGinnis said these types of transitional houses help to re-integrate community members who are trying to get healthy and quit their addictions by treating them with compassion, respect and understanding rather than shame.

Beaulieu stressed that a space free from the pressures of substances, or even friends or family members who might still influence the lifestyle of a person in recovery is critical in helping to ensure that person can develop healthy boundaries and habits to complete their addictions treatment.

“With recovery or treatments, I see time and time over again people going to treatment, completing a treatment, and being discharged with no aftercare or plan,” she explained.

“Transitional housing, sober living housing, is a critical part of recovery. I think for the communities and families, it’s just an important piece to the recovery, having these facilities. This is where, as a society, we need to come together and create these. There needs to be more sober living communities, transitional spaces. This prepares them to have social relationships with other sober people, to know there is a life beyond the normal settings.”

Now that the transitional housing facility is up and running, Beaulieu said there is a chance that it could expand in the future if the program proves itself successful, but it is already providing a second chance to those in need.

“I would like to say thank you to the transitional staff, clients, band staff members, and Art Hunter for helping out today,” she said.

“Thank you for all your hard work. I would also like to acknowledge the community of Rainy River First Nations who, back in 2016, requested a facility to be opened on reserve, to chief and council for their support, and RRFN Trust for the operational funding of the facility.”