When Marilyn was in her 20s she was diagnosed with retinal detachment, resulting in the gradual loss of her eye sight. Marilyn turned to alcohol to help her cope with the grief and anger related to her diagnosis and vision loss.
Marilyn’s journey to stable housing began when she was 65 years old. After more than three decades of being consumed in an unhealthy lifestyle, she found herself homeless for the very first time. She stayed at a homeless shelter in St. Catharines where a friend referred her to Bethlehem Housing and Support Services.
After reaching out to us, she was connected with a Community Support Worker and they worked together to determine her needs and set personal goals. In November of 2016, she moved into an accessible unit at Bethlehem Place, our transitional supportive housing program.
When she first arrived, Marilyn had approximately 5% of her vision left, however since then she has completely lost her sight. She didn’t have any proper training on how to manage her vision loss. “Bethlehem connected me to different services that would make living on my own easier.”
We connected her with an independent living specialist and a mobility specialist at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. The mobility specialist worked with her so she can guide herself properly using a cane. The independent living specialist introduced her to different devices and tools to help with daily living.
Some other important services that Marilyn was connected to were the Canadian Diabetes Association, Meals on Wheels and the Niagara Regional Native Centre. Additionally, she received assistance with her income taxes, which provided her access to financial supports.
As a result, Marilyn is surrounded by a wonderful support system of community partners that help to ensure her needs are met. “Before I came to Bethlehem I had no idea where to go or who to ask for help. I didn’t even know some of these places existed.” These community based resources have contributed to improving her quality of life.
While living with us, she worked on life skills training, including healthy coping strategies, self-care, setting healthy boundaries, and how to deal with the grief of the loss of her vision. "My suppor worker also assisted her with daily tasks such as reading mail, doing laundry and making phone calls."
Through the supports she has in place, Marilyn has been working on coming to terms with her vision loss. “Becoming blind has made me see things in a different way. Before, I had no reason to smile. Now I smile all the time thanks to my support worker and Bethlehem.”
In October of 2017 Marilyn completed our transitional housing program and moved into an apartment within the community. She receives a rent supplement through a housing program designed to support individuals moving from homelessness to a life of stability and success.
Marilyn expressed a desire to continue her journey towards improving herself so she can be better to those in her life. “The most important thing in my life right now is taking care of myself.”
She believes that with ongoing support from us and other community partners, she will only move forward in life. “I would recommend anyone who needs help with housing to contact Bethlehem in an instant.”