‘Unique and special’ Winnipeg centre will help women, LGBTQ people recover from addictions

By | December 2, 2019

Cindy Foster and Leora Strand feel well-suited to help women and members of Winnipeg’s LGBTQ community struggling with addiction.

Both members of the queer community have experience in mental health and addiction services and are raising money to open Regenesis House, an addictions recovery centre devoted to providing programming for women and LGBTQ women.

“I specifically wanted to be involved in a facility that was catering to women, and trans women and queer women because of the isolation and exclusion that they already face in so many ways,” said Strand. 

“To be a part of including them and raising them up is something that’s really unique and special.”

Strand and Foster said they don’t know of another LGBTQ-focused addiction centre in Manitoba.

The small team is in the process of registering as a charity and is currently running a GoFundMe campaign to raise $500,000 with hopes of opening somewhere central by fall 2020.

Strand and Foster intend to work there full-time, as well as hire a part-time employee and leverage help from volunteers. The pair will draw on years of experience working in the addictions, crisis care and mental health fields.

The unique needs of LGBTQ people aren’t being met by the current system that Regenesis House would address, said Strand.

“As a queer person, as a bisexual woman, I feel comfortable being in that role and supporting those folks, because I’ve had those experiences too where I felt very alone,” she said.

The centre will serve five to eight clients at a time and programs will run from six to 12 months. Foster said it will be on a first-come, first-serve basis and participants will be able to apply to cover costs of room and board through employment and income assistance.

Catering to women

The Virgo report, released in May 2018 and commissioned by the Manitoba government, identified women as being vulnerable in terms of addictions recovery due to a lack of social supports on hand for them in Winnipeg. Men seem to have more services available, said Foster, “and that’s really why we’re wanting to cater to women.”

She said the methamphetamine and opioid crises and their related “social fall outs” call for better services tailored at long-term recovery.

That’s why Regenesis House will also focus on providing outpatient care to plug graduates into a community at a time when they’re often prone to social isolation, said Foster.

In her experience in the addictions field, Foster said she would often see the same clients over and over again. The reason for that, Foster says, is linked to a lack of positive sober support outside of treatment.

“We want to make sure that they’re also receiving a lot of support when they re-integrate back into the greater community,” said Foster.

Often clients who were discharged from treatment have to break ties with friends or family members who are living with substance use challenges in hopes of staying clean themselves, said Strand.

“They come back and they talk about the trigger of their relapse being related to loneliness,” said Strand.

“I was really inspired to get involved with Regenesis House so that we can build this lifelong relationship with our residents. And so hopefully kind of curb some of that loneliness and the lack of support that so many people have once they leave recovery.”

Though there aren’t any immediate plans to offer programming inclusive of transgender men or non-binary people, the pair say they may include projects in the future for all members of the queer community.