Sask.'s first HIV transitional home opens in Saskatoon

News Talk 650. CKOM, Nov 02, 2015 - Once homeless and sick with HIV, a Saskatoon woman has recovered and is now using her experience to help others get healthy.

“I was 76 pounds when they found me I was on my death bed walking around here. My son said: 'mom you better get help,'” said Crystal Dreaver, client services counsellor in Saskatoon.

She also serves as a board member for the Sanctum, the province’s first HIV transitional home and hospice which officially opened on Nov. 2 in Saskatoon.

Dreaver said a transitional home like Sanctum is desperately needed in Saskatoon and it’s something she could’ve used when she was ill.

“When I was sick I didn’t have a home I was moving from place to place living at a hotel and being not able to get the bills paid … this home would be awesome. There’s so many people that need this place, it’s hard to try and heal when you’re not sick enough to be in the hospital, but you’re not well enough to stay at home and look after everything. You need somewhere where you can go and not worry about anything,” Dreaver said about the new 10-bed transitional home.

Sanctum will offer three types of care including respite, supportive and end of life, but they’ll also offer psychiatry and mental health services, transportation, housing and recreational programming. Seven beds are available for up to three-month periods and have been earmarked for clients who require supportive or rehabilitation services. Two beds will be dedicated to end-of-life care and the last bed for respite care.

The Saskatoon Health Region said the transitional home will eliminate 200 emergency room visits, saving the health region about $36,450. Sanctum is also expected to reduce everyone's wait times by freeing up the emergency department for other patients. Health region data between January and December 2014 showed an average of 175 emergency room visits per month by HIV positive people.

Dr. Morris Markentin, president and co-founder of Sanctum, said the new facility will help medical staff watch over patients, make sure they’re taking medications, as well as keep patients safe in a home setting.

“There’s lot of support services within the community but we don’t quite have enough. The hospital setting, for someone who is a bit healthier, the hospital isn’t the best place to stay for six weeks, so Sanctum transitions them into a better place, to get healthier and get them back home,” Markentin said.

“If we can get people on their meds, three meals and a day and a roof over their heads that’s the start of getting healthy.”

The health region will provide operational funding of $836,000 for Sanctum’s first year. The home is located on Avenue O South and 21st Street in a former Grey Nuns’ residence owned by St. Paul’s hospital. Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership footed the $180,000 bill for renovating Sanctum into the neat, clean home it is.

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