Mental health housing opens, remembers longterm CMHA member

Ben Hladun holds up a picture of his late wife, Joni, on May 10, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Ben Hladun flips through a stack of photographs of his late wife, remembering her compassion for those struggling with their mental health.

Joan (Joni) Hladun was a board member of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Prince Albert Branch for 14 years.

A new six unit mental health housing development named Joni’s Place honours her dedication to the cause.

Ben Hladun holds up photographs showing his late wife’s love for design and gardening on May 10, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Ben officially declared Joni’s Place open on Friday morning with a ribbon cutting. He stood alongside Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave, Mayor Greg Dionne, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) Jeri Hitchings and the CMHA’s Executive Director Doug Kinar.

Joni passed away last October at the age of 70 after dealing with a number of illnesses, according to Ben.

“I’m quite pleased that they would recognize her. It caught me by surprise,” he said, adding she dealt with a bit of manic depression.

“Being the outgoing person that she is, she got involved with mental health and so I guess from her perspective kind of understood what they were going through in a way.”

Kinar said this is the city’s third mental health housing development. Together, they provide 22 affordable housing spaces for members of the CMHA.

“Think about when you moved out for the first time at age 18, 19, 20. When you moved out, you still had access to your parents, to be able to get help once in a while, you know, how do we do this? How do we do that? And we learn. But for a lot of our guys, they haven’t had the opportunity to learn how to live independently,” he said.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) refers people to the CMHA, which is how they decide who will move in.

“There’s a whole progression of housing. We go from homeless to people who own their own homes and on that progression, this piece is very important,” Kinar said.

Prince Albert’s CMHA Executive Director Doug Kinar speaks at the opening of Joni’s Place on May 10, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Delaynie Thompson is in the process of moving out of the housing program after learning how to live more independently for a year and a half.

She lived in the Dave Rascher Place.

“I worked alongside…my mental health social worker and she taught me things such as budgeting, going to the grocery store and picking out healthy foods,” she explained.

“It helps stabilize and end the stigma throughout the community by giving people a chance. Like, some people don’t get a chance in certain communities, but Prince Albert really (does).”

Delaynie Thompson poses outside of Joni’s Place on May 10, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Joni’s Place is located at 538 -7th Street East.

The Government of Canada through the CMHC and the Government of Saskatchewan through the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC) jointly contributed $612,500 to the project.