The work was an insult to them
Front-line workers feared that their former patients would fare poorly; they were not adequately prepared to blend into the wider community and the community was not adequately prepared to receive them. Often patients had been hospitalized for decades and quite simply had none of the tools required for living on the outside. Few had access to meaningful employment, and for those who found jobs, the work was often menial or infantilizing, and was a poor substitute for the genuinely responsible positions that many had held in the institutions.
Many of them didn’t even know how to use a phone or cook an egg. How could they be expected to look after themselves?
We had some very bad foster homes where patients were locked out of the house first thing in the morning and they couldn’t go back until supper time. They had no choice but to wander around all day with nothing to do…. About twenty-five would show up every morning at the acute in-patient unit [at the general hospital]. They had nothing else to do, and they needed a place to socialize. So we just kept track of their names, and we put on coffee.
I remember this one fellow, they sent him to the sheltered workshop in North Battleford where he was set to making toys. Before that, he had practically run the hospital’s dairy operation…. I remember him saying to me, “I’m a farmer; I’m not Santa Claus.” The kind of work they were given after they got out was an insult to them.