This past week, the Joshua Jacks Centre finally opened its doors to clients after two years of construction.
The two-storey facility, located in downtown Brandon, is designed to help people struggling with drug addiction, providing both a non-medical detox space and a sober living program to help get them back on their feet.
Stephanie Lockerby, executive director of Brandon’s Community Health and Housing Association office, provided the Sun with a tour of the Joshua Jacks Centre on Wednesday, mentioning that this site has come a long way from the empty warehouse they began renovating in late 2019.
"So it’s really exciting and relieving to be able to open our doors and start accepting clients into this program," she said over the phone before the tour began.
Wednesday’s tour gave the Sun a closer look at the centre’s six-bed withdrawal facility on the ground floor, which is designed to give clients a calm and supportive environment to begin their long road to recovery.
"It is absolutely free of charge for clients who come through our door," Lockerby said. "The program offers 24/7 staffing, two staff members at all times, with the addition of a full-time cook on site."
Each room also gives clients access to their own private bathroom, a feature that Lockerby said is integral to the whole detox process.
The nine rooms located on the second floor are nearly identical with a few extra amenities, since clients are expected to stay in these units for a longer period of time after coming out of a lengthy treatment program elsewhere.
Lockerby later clarified that clients can stay in these units for up to two years if need be, although they are expected to attend school and/or look for steady employment throughout this period.
The building itself is named after Joshua Jacks Mennie, a local glazier who died from a drug overdose in December 2016 at the age of 30.
After hearing about this tragedy, CHHA special projects manager Glen Kruck decided to start building this rehabilitation centre in Mennie’s honour, with the death hitting him particularly hard.
"I was just absolutely floored," Kruck told the Sun in January. "We have heard of other folks passing away … but we knew the Mennies, I knew the Mennies, and that really hit a very tender spot for sure."
Talking to the Sun on Wednesday, members of Mennie’s family said they were very excited to see that the Joshua Jacks Centre has finally come to fruition, since it provides a vital service that had been lacking in Brandon up until this point.
More specifically, Jenna Mennie Clarke pointed to the centre’s sober living facility on the second floor as being a major life-saver, since her brother died a few short days after getting released from an Addictions Foundation of Manitoba treatment program.
"And we know from talking to friends that he was trying to access longer-term housing and support … we just didn’t have access to that here," she said. "And if he had had a plan when he left treatment, he could have been here today."
Moving forward, Mennie Clarke also hopes that the mere existence of the Joshua Jacks Centre chips away at the negative stigma attached to people struggling with addictions, since this is an issue that most, if not all, families deal with.
"So having his name on the building is kind of making it OK for other people to come forward and say ‘we’ve struggled with these issues as a family and it’s something that needs to be brought to the forefront,’" she said.
Luckily, Mennie Clarke and her mother Kathy are both encouraged to see that additional drug recovery programs have begun popping up in Brandon alongside the grand opening of the Joshua Jacks Centre.
Many of these resources have been set up through Westman Youth for Christ, which includes a new Youth Hub program and housing initiative called Common Spaces, both located in Brandon’s downtown core.
Plus, the province announced on Sept. 2 that it is allocating nine new supportive recovery housing beds in the Wheat City, which will also be operated locally by members of Youth for Christ.
"They’re all pieces to the same puzzle, really," Mennie Clarke said. "And if we’re all working towards the same goal, it’s wonderful."
Anyone looking to donate funds to help support the Joshua Jacks Centre should contact CHHA directly by calling 204-727-5425 or 204-726-8865.
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson