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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Client-run canteen providing meaningful employment

A client-run canteen in CAMH’s Law and Mental Health General Rehabilitation Unit (LGUB) is not only offering clients with limited or no community privileges the chance to purchase various food items, it’s providing clients who work there with skills to help them transition back into the workforce once they leave CAMH.

Complex Mental Illness Program OT Eric Quan supervises the canteen initiative, which features specials of the week including healthy snack options to promote healthier eating habits.

"The canteen provides meaningful employment for individuals with limited privileges," Eric says. "The canteen adds structure to their day, an opportunity for regular social contact and the chance to improve money management skills. Having a productive occupation is seen as fundamental to an individual’s health and well-being and can be an important aspect in one’s recovery journey.”

Client-run canteen 
OT Eric Quan with client Paul Todorov, Canteen Operator.

Eric says for some clients, the canteen may be their first experience with work, while others may have been unemployed for a period of time.

“The canteen application process attempts to mirror the demands of a realistic work environment where clients have to hand in their resume and take part in an interview. This provides an opportunity for clients to practice their interview skills, and further improve heir confidence and skills in this area as feedback is provided after the interview.”

Brian McDonnell has been operating the canteen for four months and says the experience has given him a leg up.  “This job has been great. Not only have l had a chance to earn extra cash, I now have cash-handling skills. You can’t go wrong knowing how to handle cash.”

Paul Todorov is training to take over from Brian and says he jumped at the opportunity to get some experience. “I would like to work in a busy coffee shop because I like dealing with people. This job will improve my collaborating skills, and improve my cash skills.”

Patrick Bradley landed a job as canteen supplier two months ago. “When I leave CAMH I want to run my own moving business. Working at the canteen helps me with delivery skills and gives me a chance to interact with customers.”

Eric Quan says the LGUB canteen is providing clients with a supportive environment to give them the confidence to develop skills to go back to work in the community. “Following an illness, individuals may have difficulties transitioning back into employment, however clients within forensic settings face practical and personal barriers to engagement in meaningful productive occupations, both during their time within a secure setting and their return to the community.”

"All profits from the canteen go directly back to programming and activities the clients have identified as meaningful, to help increase their comfort while at CAMH,” says Deborah Gaudet, LGUB Unit Manager.  “The proceeds from sales in December went toward buying Christmas gifts for clients."​

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