“I weighed 125 pounds before I got into housing,” says Joe Hatch, a participant in the At Home study in Winnipeg. “But as soon as I had an apartment, my health improved dramatically.” Hatch, who has a B.A. in sociology, was working at the University of Winnipeg in the late 1990s when he began to experience panic attacks. “I was diagnosed with anxiety and prescribed Paxil, but that wasn’t the right diagnosis or medication.” Hatch had begun a 12-year downward spiral. “I struggled with depression for years until, after taking Paxil for too long, I went into mania and started doing things that were totally out of character for me. I became suicidal and violent.”
Losing both his marriage and his job, Hatch was eventually obliged to move out of his apartment. “I was living on disability checks and I couldn’t find another apartment that I could afford so I landed on a friend’s couch. But I couldn’t do that forever, it’s asking too much of a friendship, so I ended up on the street.” And from the street he wound up in jail. “There are a lot of things I don’t remember from those twelve years. Especially when I was in mania. The police say that I was breaking things, breaking windows. I don’t remember that.”
In retrospect, says Hatch, getting arrested may have been the best thing that could have happened because it led to a stint in a psychiatric hospital. There, he received a new diagnosis – bipolar disorder. And with the new diagnosis, new medication. Since then, life has been steadily improving for Hatch. “You have to catch a couple of breaks somewhere, and the biggest break for me was getting a chance to participate in the At Home/Chez Soi study.” Through the study, Hatch found housing in 2010 and, eventually, work. Now, two years on, he’s a Peer Organizer with the study and does research for the University of Winnipeg’s Institute of Urban Studies. If the At Home project has a success story – Joe Hatch is it.