‘There were several other groups that were interested, this seemed to be the right one’
By Nancy Russell, CBC News
Bishop Richard Grecco and Dianne Young have been talking about her proposal for a recovery house for several years.
A mother whose son struggled with mental health issues and addictions is one step closer to establishing a new recovery house in his honour, with help from Bishop Richard Grecco.
The Diocese of Charlottetown has offered Dianne Young and her group the Belcourt Centre in South Rustico,P.E.I. as a home for the Lennon Recovery House.
Young’s son, Lennon Waterman, took his life in 2013. He struggled with both mental illness and drug addictions for more than a decade before his death.
Young approached the Roman Catholic bishop for Charlottetown three years ago.
“When we first met, we talked about the challenges that we have in our community with regards to mental health and addiction,” said Young.
“He was very very kind and he was very empathetic to what was going on in my life at the time.”
Dianne Young says her son struggled for a decade with issues around addictions and mental illness before he died. (Lest We Forget Lennon Waterman/Facebook)
“My heart went out to her,” recalled Grecco.
He was also impressed with her proposal.
“You think of the wider issue that she wants to address, about mental illness,” said Grecco.
“Here came to me a lady that not only wanted to talk about it but she wanted to do something about it and I paid serious attention to her ideas.”
Belcourt became ‘available’
The two kept in touch, then the Bishop reached out again after the diocese ran into difficulties with its plans to demolish Belcourt Centre and build a new spiritual retreat centre on the site.
“It came together when Belcourt became available,” explained Grecco.
“We had plans for Belcourt and people weren’t in agreement with that so we couldn’t build a new place there.”
A benefactor came forward, donating land in Bayview for the new multi-million dollar retreat centre. It is now open.
That freed up the Belcourt Centre and the offer was made to the new Lennon Recovery House Association.
“I said the building is there, people want it to remain, would you be interested?” said Grecco.
“We’re allowing them in there immediately to begin renovations and when Lennon House is ready to be opened, we’re ready to hand over the land and the building.”
Paying it forward
Grecco has not spoken with people in the community about the plans but says he has been clear that the diocese wants to “re-purpose” the Belcourt Centre.
“There were several other groups that were interested, this seemed to be the right one.”
Grecco considers it an opportunity to pay forward the generosity that allowed the new spiritual centre to be built.
“When somebody is as generous to the church as this benefactor was, you want to pass it on and this is such a worthy cause.”
‘Like a blessing’
For Dianne Young, it is a huge step forward, after three years of knocking on doors, including lobbying at Province House.
“We’re just in the beginning stages but it feels like it’s actually happening and so it feels like a blessing,” said Young.
The new Lennon Recovery House Association held its first meeting in April, with plans to start fundraising immediately.
“Lots of money, I’m not going to quote any amount but it’s going to take a lot of money,” said Young.
“Already I’ve had people approach me and want to donate, companies wanting to meet with me so I think that there will be an outpouring of people wanting to help and wanting to see that recovery house up and going.”
The recovery house will have programs for both men and women and will take what Young calls a “holistic” versus a medical approach. Clients will stay at the house, she says, from three months to a year.
Young is touched by the bishop’s generosity.
“I think it’s awesome, I’m a Catholic myself and I believe in God,” said Young.
“My son’s life was very hard for him and it was tragic how it ended, however I’ve really tried to put some kind of purpose into that so that his life was not in vain.”
Many Islanders struggling
Young still puts flowers on the spot on the North River causeway where her son was last seen in November 2013.
“I continue to put flowers on the bridge just as a reminder to people that there are still a lot of others struggling with the same struggles Lennon had and not to forget,” she said.
There is no timeline set for opening the Lennon Recovery House, but Young is determined to make it happen as soon as funding is secured.
“It’s all falling into place, just like it’s supposed to.”
Dianne Young says she’s already hearing from Island individuals and businesses interested in giving financial support for the new recovery house. (CBC)