McGinty House hosts people with mental & physical health challenges during pandemic


McGinty House hosts people with mental & physical health challenges during pandemic

“People are incredibly resilient”
McGinty House hosts people with mental & physical health challenges during pandemic

In a beautiful red brick house on Catharine Street North in Hamilton, 10 people who are struggling through the pandemic are finding compassion and refuge. Good Shepherd’s McGinty House has re-opened so that local hospitals could free up beds in anticipation of COVID-19 patients.

“Our clients are feeling a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety,” says Heidi, a community mental health worker. “Because McGinty has only been opened temporarily in the response to the pandemic, they all wonder what will happen next. They want to know if they will go back to hospital, will they be able to afford housing, will something open up for them? There are so many unknowns.”

The clients have mental and physical health challenges and they live with the daunting prospect of unstable housing when they leave McGinty House. Jeanette, another community mental health worker, says co-workers are trying hard to provide normalcy in a temporary situation. The staff are getting to know clients and are planning programming around their interests. Some ideas include starting a garden in the backyard and running an exercise program.

The clients listen to music and watch YouTube videos. Meals are provided by The Good Shepherd Centre kitchen and packaged individually. Both Jeanette and Heidi said the food has been great and that the kitchen staff are working overtime to meet the increased need.

“We are doing our best to help people feel at home. It’s especially hard when you are isolating without the privileges that most of us have: a comfortable home, family members, the internet,” she says. “We see the clients here supporting their peers and making new connections with each other.”

Heidi notes that the effects of the health crisis are obstacles that the clients are determined to overcome.

“People are incredibly resilient. They have been able to adapt to so many challenges in their life including this one. We are seeing strength and hope in our clients right now,” she says.

The challenges our clients face are best dealt with through close interaction, something that can’t be accomplished due to physical distancing. Yet they are taking physical distancing seriously and are respectful of each other’s space.

“It’s hard. We know some clients are struggling and all we want is to sit with them, physically just be with them but we can’t be there right now,” says Jeanette. “We try to be creative and find other ways to support them.”

“Social distancing is hard, everything we learn teaches us to help people feel like they are not alone, not isolated and to encourage them to be participants in things,” she says. “Now we are encouraging them to isolate. It’s all backwards from the way we normally work.

Heidi and Jeanette both note that their co-workers and the community have rallied to make sure that vulnerable members of our community remain safe.

“It’s been amazing to see people come together,” says Heidi. “Everyone is rallying. The tenants have been checking in on us to make sure we are okay. They know this affects everyone.”

Jeanette adds: “What we are seeing is people really recognizing the value of social services, front line workers and the people we serve. The government is stepping up with funding to help us meet the needs of our clients. Our hope is that this will continue in the future, that people will continue to remember that the people we serve deserve a more dignified way of life.”

The simple truth is the foundation of healthcare starts with a safe, stable and affordable home. The Good Shepherd HOMES program is managing the program at McGinty House. HOMES is working alongside the hospital system to find permanent homes for these members of the Hamilton community.