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Forensic patients give back to volunteer-run animal shelter

The Forensic Psychiatric Hospital provides assessment and treatment for approximately 200 inpatients all of whom live with some degree of mental ill health and have come into conflict with the law while unwell.
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It is the largest facility of its kind in Western Canada.

While public safety is our primary remit, we are also tasked with facilitating recovery and helping people look ahead to a positive and contributing life after leaving the hospital. For the Rehabilitation Services team, this means delivering programs targeted at skills building, developing meaningful roles and giving back to the local community.

Katie's Place is a volunteer-run animal shelter located in Maple Ridge, about 28 kilometres from the hospital. Although its primary focus is cats, the shelter is a safe harbour for other small animals such as rabbits and occasionally, birds. With an absolute no-kill ethos, every cat is welcomed no matter their age or health; in fact, Katie's Place never turns a cat away. It is a tremendous credit to the endless work of the volunteers, donors and adopters, that every cat entering the shelter eventually finds a warm and loving home.

Katie's Place runs entirely on public donations and when the Rehabilitation Services team heard that the shelter was in need of some repairs, storage and specific equipment for the cats, staff and patients in the wood shop program offered to help. Over the span of a year and in close collaboration with shelter volunteers, they built and replaced one set of fire exit steps and repaired another; constructed essential custom hallway and washroom storage, and built safe hideaway cubbies for scared new arrivals. Staff and patients visited the shelter several times and between taking measurements, carrying out installation and working up a sweat in the garden, they managed to find time to make friends with a few of the shelters furry guests.

Katies Place WS The old Fire Exit Steps Apr 18.JPG

Then as winter turned to summer, the horticulture program joined in, and alongside a shelter volunteer they cleared away the undergrowth around the property and disposed of anything no longer usable at a local recycling centre. Maintenance access to all sides of the building was made easy and the resulting space became a playground for a mother racoon and her two babies who were living under the shelter.

Katies Place Garden Back Yard clear 2 Jun 18.JPG

Staff and patients were truly delighted to be able to do this work for the shelter and quickly came to appreciate the intrinsic value of unconditionally giving back. By providing this service to Katie's Place, participants not only learned solid construction skills, but were given the opportunity to liaise and work alongside other volunteers as equals, and their feedback indicated that this was important to them. We heard over and over again how good this made them feel; one participant remarked 'I'd really like to volunteer here when I leave hospital' and, when asked how he felt about the program another replied 'this makes me feel good – I feel like I am doing something that makes a difference'.

Katies Place Garden Back Yard in progress 4 Jun 18.JPG

This last year has provided a solid foundation for what we anticipate will be a very productive ongoing working relationship with Katie's Place.

So, if you are considering adopting or fostering a cat, please visit Katie's Place website: or drop in at their Open House every Saturday and Sunday, 12-2 at 10255 Jackson Ave, Maple Ridge, BC V2W 1G5. While you're there, take a moment to check out the work we've done!

SOURCE: Forensic patients give back to volunteer-run animal shelter ( )
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