By Trevor Suffield
Dec. 18, 2008
Five years ago, all of Kumaran’s possessions were in a pawnshop, he had no car or phone and was homeless.
Having just been accepted into Manitoba Housing, he heard about Self-Starting Creative Opportunities for People in Employment.
SSCOPE, located at 1000 Notre Dame Ave., is a non-profit organization that assists in the rehabilitation of individuals requiring mental health services by providing them with casual employment.
Kumaran, who requested that his last name not be used, spent 20 years touring the country as a musician. The rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle eventually caught up to him and began to affect his mental health.
“Gradually, over the years the toll of making very minor, small amounts of money with huge amounts of energy output just took its toll,” said Kumaran, who was a member of Winnipeg-based reggae band Inna Riddim.
“I’m sort of a success story in terms of I came here as a client of the mental health industry, just off the street. After four years of just working myself up, I’m actually a salaried employee now,” added Kumaran, who is now a support worker with SSCOPE.
“SSCOPE actually was the perfect job for me and it brought me right out of the dumps.”
SSCOPE offers a variety of services to clients including snow removal, housecleaning and moving. It recently added a Christmas tree delivery and removal service. The tree removal service wasn’t offered until this year because the agency didn’t have enough staff.
“We feel that Christmas is a great time to be thinking of others. It’s obviously when the heart and wallets are open a little bit more,” said Bob Rempel, executive director of SSCOPE.
SSCOPE workers will remove the trees after Christmas and deliver them to one of the City of Winnipeg’s recycling locations or to the Festival du Voyageur, for a donation.
The non-profit organization was established in 1991 with the aim of helping individuals with mental illness get back into the workforce.
Although SSCOPE workers are recovering from depression and anxiety, they are still capable of being productive, Rempel said.
“It’s a pretty good workforce and they’re capable of doing almost anything,” he said, adding that a support worker joins workers on every job and individuals are free to choose when they want to work.
SSCOPE currently employs about 50 workers at any given time. Rempel hopes to see that number double in the next couple of years. Workers are paid minimum wage, which Rempel said is a reasonable return for their time.
The agency currently has an annual budget of nearly $200,000, with the majority of funding coming from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
“We certainly appreciate the help we get from the WRHA but we want to be at least 50% self-funded,” Rempel said.
Kumaran says one of the biggest challenges for the agency is meeting the needs of both workers and customers.
“We try to be sensitive to both sides,” he said. “People are calling us knowing who we are, and on the other end people might be calling us because we have the best rate in town.”
Kumaran has begun playing music again and is proud of having been able to turn his life around.
“For myself, this has brought me economic stability. It’s brought me structure, form and now I feel like I’m a member of society,” he said.
For more information on SSCOPE’s tree delivery and removal service, call 987-6302, or visit www.sscope.org.