Ken’s Story

Many Paths to Mental Health

The “Many Healing Blankets” program at Safe Harbour, supported by the United Way Central Alberta played a pivotal role in Makinaw’s recovery journey.

Surviving Addiction and Alcoholism

Ken Makinaw’s Inspirational Journey to Recovery

In Red Deer, an inspiring story of courage, and community support shines a light on the power of overcoming addiction and alcoholism. Ken Makinaw’s achievement of 18 months of sobriety stands as a testament to personal determination, community resources, and unwavering support.

“I have had a pretty traumatic addiction life,” Makinaw said. “I was evicted from each place I had and every time, I had to start over from scratch.”

49-year-old Makinaw came to Red Deer after living on the Ermineskin First Nation, followed by a year in Wetaskiwin. “I heard there were supports in Red Deer that would help me deal with my addiction,” he said.

The “Many Healing Blankets” program at Safe Harbour, supported by the United Way Central Alberta played a pivotal role in Makinaw’s recovery journey. The program offered a lifeline, providing shelter, counseling, and essential tools for rebuilding his life.

A turning point came in April 2021. Makinaw faced a life-threatening overdose. “ I took too much of something,” he said. “My friend saved my life giving me CPR and ran into the drugstore to get me a Naloxone kit. The emergency services worker told me in the ambulance I had been dead for 15 minutes.”

He continued, “After that, I went cold-turkey and I’ve been clean and sober for 18 months. I got tired; I just don’t want to do it anymore. I reached out to Safe Harbour; they’ve always been there for me. I went to Poundmakers, I completed that, I got my head back on. I can think clearly. Things are starting to happen for me. I’m giving back because they’ve given me so much.”

Makinaw also found mentorship and guidance from Elder Lynn, who adopted him as his own, and Makinaw fondly refers to him as “Pops.” Makinaw said “Elder Lynn says, ‘How’s it going my son?’ I love everybody who has helped me. I know now how to deal with a crisis, I know how to reach out. It’s not hard to pick up a phone.”

An article from March 31, 2018, published by RDNewsNow, highlighted the commitment of organizations like Safe Harbour emphasized the importance of community engagement and financial backing in initiatives like the “Many Healing Blankets” program, which significantly aided Ken Makinaw’s recovery.

Makinaw’s story is filled with hope and underlines the importance of community-driven initiatives to address multifaceted challenges. It shows the impact of giving essential resources and a supportive environment to individuals.

RDNewsNow Article

Formerly homeless man’s success story a sign of hope in Red Deer

Mar 31, 2018 | 7:00 AM – Josh Hall

Ken Makinaw spent about three months last year surfing from one couch to another. Other nights he spent outside, sleeping in a parkade or staying awake all night inside a 24-hour McDonald’s.

Proudly, he says he managed to avoid the other dangers of being on the street.

In July, Makinaw was evicted from his apartment. Letting others take advantage of him by staying at his place without helping to pay rent finally took its toll.

“When I was homeless, I was praying to my higher power,” the 43-year-old Ermineskin Cree Nation member says. “That’s what helped me. It got me through what was a time of despair.”

Getting through it wasn’t easy, however.

First, Makinaw put himself through the social detox program at Safe Harbour for two months. Then he got an intake worker, and through the Central Alberta Women’s Outreach Society he was able to get back on his feet.

He’s now had a roof over his head for six months and is surviving and thriving on his own again, rather than on someone else’s sofa.

“I was sick and tired of going from place to place. That wasn’t me. My late grandmother didn’t raise me to live that lifestyle, but I had no choice and I didn’t like it. I made the decision that I wanted a place of my own so I could better myself.”

That he did, learning how to budget, craft a resume, job hunt and do taxes, all of which were done with the assistance of his case manager Tamara Oakes, who would come into Makinaw’s home once a week to ensure he was maintaining his housing through goal planning.

“The best part is seeing people living pretty rough and then coming into the Red Deer Housing Team and then eventually seeing a set of keys in their hands,” says Oakes, who’s been working in this field for nine years. “That’s my happy moment for sure. It’s rewarding.”

With Makinaw’s success story in mind, Red Deer Housing Team lead Kathy Cave says there needs to be more options for those in our city without a home.

“Housing is a right, not a privilege. Do we need more supportive housing and affordable housing? Probably,” she says. “People need to understand that people are living in poverty and that they should have the right to afford affordable housing. There are a lot of single moms, single dads, and jobs that just don’t happen for people. Plus, the rent in Red Deer is pretty high.”

Cave says all orders of government need to step up in order to find creative solutions and help people who want to be helped.

Makinaw, who remains without a job for the time being, receives just shy of $1600 monthly on AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped).

He says having a home again has allowed him to reconnect with his culture by way of sharing circles at the Red Deer Native Friendship Society, and given him pause to think about his future.

“I see myself possibly having a new place, having a job, being in a relationship, and that’s about it,” he says, thinking about five years from now.

“I now know there is hope for me in my future because I fight to keep my home, ask for help when needed, and the biggest word I can say now to people is No.”

The outreach society’s provincially-funded Rapid Rehousing program, which Makinaw went through, serves around 90 clients per year and is for moderate acuity clients. It provides targeted, in-home case management and wrap-around resources for those experiencing episodic homelessness.

Other housing and support programs in Red Deer are run by Safe Harbour Society, at the Buffalo Hotel by the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Red Deer Native Friendship Society, as well as by McMan Central for youth and the Bredin Centre for Learning.

The Central Alberta Women’s Outreach Society also operates the Shoestring Depot which provides affordable furniture and household items to those transitioning out of homelessness.