For more information on PATH, contact Deborah Givens, (614) 466-7347.
For more information on other housing issues, e-mail our Housing staff.
March 20, 2017
January 13, 2017
May 17, 2017
November 16, 2016
September 7, 2016
August 24, 2016
November 18, 2015
August 19, 2015
May 20, 2015
The number of barriers, including questions about legal eligibility for programs, language, and cultural differences, complicates identifying and providing assistance to undocumented immigrants. Presenters will discuss legal restrictions on resources, including federal program – HUD and USDA-RD. They will also examine options available to programs serving undocumented immigrants experiencing homelessness.
COHHIO is offering 1.5 social worker Continuing Education hours for this webinar. In order to qualify for the continuing education units, you must attend the entire webinar, which we monitor through the GoToWebinar analytics. Next you must take a test of the information presented in the webinar and pass with an 80% rate. Additionally, we’ll need you to complete an evaluation of the training.
Thu, Nov 12, 2015 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM EST
Registration URL: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1812592567134317826
28% of youth living on the street and 10% of those in shelters engage in 'survival sex' in exchange for food, shelter or money according to the National Network 4 Youth’s, "Human Trafficking and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Population" fact sheet. The promise of food, shelter, money, and employment make homeless young adults and runaways extremely vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking. Identifying and helping young victims of commercial sexual exploitation and labor trafficking should be a priority to those providing outreach and services to homeless individuals. This webinar will allow for three expert presenters to discuss vulnerable homeless young adult and youth populations at-risk of exploitation and community solutions for aiding victims.
Learning objectives include:
COHHIO is offering a two (2) hour course on Identifying and Aiding Young Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Labor Trafficking via webinar on November 17, 2015 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Social Worker continuing education (CE) units will be offered for this training. To qualify for CE's, participant must attend all 2 hours of the training webinar. Additionally since this is a webinar, participants must take a 10-question knowledge check on the information presented and pass the knowledge check with a 80% score.
Tue, Nov 17, 2015 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM EST
Registration URL: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1937740078681268738
COHHIO will be providing an Immigration, Homelessness & Housing Learning Series for the next several months. In this webinar regarding access to health care attendees will learn when a newly immigrated adult and child are eligible for coverage under Medicaid and the Marketplace as well as under what circumstances they can apply for Alien Emergency Medical Assistance. Webinar attendees will also learn where to go to access these programs and obtain help in applying for coverage.
Presenters in this learning opportunity on accessing health care for immigrants and refugee populations will:
Wed, Dec 9, 2015 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM EST
Registration URL: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3728408015297260290
Sometimes the last people that the professional caregiver takes care of are themselves. This neglect undermines healthy self-practice but can be corrected if caregivers not only pay attention to their consumers, but also pay attention to their own self-care. There is no "one-size-fits-all" self-care plan, but by making a commitment to attend to all the domains of your life, include physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, needs, and relationships, you can have a common thread to all self-care plans.
COHHIO is offering 1.5 social worker Continuing Education hours for this webinar. In order to qualify for the continuing education units, you must attend the entire webinar, which we monitor through the GoToWebinar analytics. Next you must take a test of the information presented in the webinar and pass with an 80% rate. Additionally, we’ll need you to complete an evaluation of the training.
Thu, Dec 10, 2015 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM EST
Registration URL: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/968000511342867714
K is a 61 year old Painesville native. For over 25 years he was employed and able to support himself. He worked in construction, mostly hanging drywall and painting. Then an injury made it impossible for K to continue to do that type of work. He looked for other employment but came up empty, largely due to his lack of a high school diploma.
By 2001, K had exhausted available family resources as well as his savings, and he became homeless. He slept under bridges, or “couch-hopped” with friends.
At some point K did a short stay at the local emergency shelter and met a woman there. He describes her as “meek and frail; unable to advocate for herself.” He found himself wanting to help her, and they began living together in a commercial garage. They were good for each other; she was uncomfortable interacting with others at a site where homeless people could get meals, so K would go fishing daily for their dinners. He was battling demons of his own – mental illness plus self-medication with alcohol – and she got him connected with her church.
Fast forward 10 years. Leah Houser, a PATH Homeless Outreach Coordinator for Extended Housing, an agency in the Lake County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) network of providers, got K to agree to meet with her. Leah helped hook him up with Aspire (formerly ABLE) where he worked on his GED. He loved the experience, especially the daily access to newspapers. She connected him with behavioral health services through several Lake County ADAMHS providers.
Today, K has his GED and volunteers with Aspire, tutoring other adults in reading and math. He also volunteers with the PATH program, telling his personal story to appreciative high school students. He continues to be involved with his church, and does regular readings as a part of their weekly services. He and Leah are working toward getting him permanent housing. He’s taking his treatment seriously because he believes it will help him enhance the quality of his life.
Sandra, PATH Supervisor, puts it this way, “K has come a long way. When I first met him he was unwilling to acknowledge or talk about his mental health and substance abuse issues. He’d come by and chat with the PATH team. But as soon as the conversation took that turn he’d shut down. I’m really proud that our team was patient, nonintrusive, supportive and willing to listen. We never lost touch with K, and we encouraged and celebrated his 'baby steps.' I’m thrilled that K is working with Leah toward the goal of finding permanent housing. I have every confidence that he’ll achieve that goal.”
H is a 39 year old mother of seven children. H was born in Amherst, Ohio and lived there with her father until age 11. She states that as early as 5 years old she was told and felt that she was different from others. She moved to Columbus, Ohio to live with her mother at age 11 and attended several “suburban” school districts and participated in work study classes. She reports always being very energetic, creative, and determined. H mentions that she always lived in affluent neighborhoods and went to good schools.
At age 16, H became pregnant with her first child. She ultimately dropped out of school and went to live in a Christian group home for pregnant teenagers. While there she was very determined, and studied hard to obtain her GED.
At age 19, H had her first mental health treatment episode after experiencing symptoms of depression and feelings of being overwhelmed raising two children at the time. A few years later, H moved into an apartment with her children’s father where they remained for nine years. During this time H states she had several attempts at college for cosmetology and studying to be an STNA. She describes at times being very driven, idealistic, and goal directed. She also describes experiencing intermittent periods of moderate depression, which impacted her ability to complete her tasks. She was introduced to doing seamstress work and “fell in love with it”. She began doing this full time and was able to start her own business making and selling boutique clothing and jewelry. She continued this for several years.
H often was symptomatic, experiencing depression and mania and felt that her “highs” were productive and made her feel like she was doing very positive things. She felt that she was functioning well, managing her business, and tending to her family. H’s depressive episodes became more intense over time, often hindering her functionality for weeks at a time.
At age 33, H describes a “mental break” including psychotic symptoms that she labeled a “spiritual awakening” and “life transforming”, as she did not perceive these as symptoms of mental illness but rather her ability to experience life as others could not. Her psychosis intensified and she became very paranoid, erratic, and delusional. She also continued to have severe depressive episodes and instances of disassociation. She reflects on times when she would just “sit in one spot for hours.” This began to impact her family relationships and her boyfriend ultimately decided to leave the home. H’s psychosis continued and her children’s behaviors began to change as a result. Her two teenage sons became unruly and truant as she lacked the capacity to monitor them given her mental state. These two children were removed from her home, she was asked to leave her apartment due to their behaviors, she ran out of places to stay and became homeless.
H’s homelessness lasted for about a year, including staying in her van for 5 weeks while going through intense psychiatric symptoms and being hospitalized several times. She was able to engage with PATH outreach worker June Moore, who quickly was able to build rapport with H while assisting her with navigating through system interventions and linking with mental health treatment.
H describes June as her "angel” and reports the most valuable aspect of their relationship was June’s nonjudgmental approach. H reflects on how June and the staff on the PATH Mobile Coach were very helpful in assisting her with getting on medications that work. She laughs when describing how she looked forward to seeing June for some of their conversations on the way to the Coach for psychiatric appointments and how June was always someone she could be open with. During this time, H became consistent on keeping her appointments and taking her medications, was able to get into a homeless shelter, be seen at Southeast’s Primary Care Clinic, and worked with June to complete housing applications that led to her being housed. She mentions June even helped her get situated in her new apartment.
Currently, H has maintained her apartment, has been transferred from PATH to long term treatment team, and continues to keep appointments and take medications. She now has all of her children with her and this is often the hardest part of her recovery but she tries to make it as enjoyable as possible. She boasts of how she plays games with her children and neighborhood children, has become more social in her community, and feels hopeful for the future.
This remarkable woman attributes her willingness to allow others to help her and consistency with taking medications, as well as “having no more fear” regarding her stability and ability to progress in life. She will be the first to admit that things aren’t always easy (and sometimes get very hard) but she believes in her ability to persevere and that keeps her going. She no longer feels suicidal, which she describes as the worst part of her journey. For those who may have similar challenges, H offers this advice, “tell someone how you really feel and let them help you. Don’t take life for granted”.
D was honored by Miami Valley Housing Opportunities and Eastway Behavioral Healthcare as CABHI Tenant of the Month for March, due to his success at attaining full time employment with a local community college. D works in janitorial services, and said he is committed to maintaining his employment.
He said his favorite thing about his job is “I like having money in my pocket, but I really haven’t spent much money. I am thinking about a new TV but haven’t done that yet. I like old shows, Alfred Hitchcock hour.”
CABHI staff assisted D to locate resources, when he had no income and experienced struggles to pay rent. He admits, “I may have been able to get this apartment on my own, but I may not have been able to keep it. I have needed rental assistance while I looked for a job.”
“I haven’t missed a day at work yet; I feel good that supervisors tell me I am doing a good job,” he said.
D worked with a CABHI partner from Eastway Behavioral Healthcare that provided supportive employment assistance. “The Employment Specialist and I both had some ideas, and we battled on them a little. She kept me in the game of looking for a job; she kept me from going back to day-labor and helped me get a real job. I wouldn’t be as stable as I am now without her,” D said.
He continued, “Maybe there is something better ahead of me, but right now I will stick with this and see what is going to happen.”
He considers having his apartment and his job as re-entering society. He said, “I am working on social skills.”
“Being employed is good for me, I work on my own, but I am getting better at talking to people at work.” He has a goal of making friends. He enjoys working in a building close enough to his new home that he can go home for lunch break.
D was a MVHO PATH client prior to attaining housing and receiving MVHO CABHI services.
J is a 64 year old female. She currently resides in Hamilton, Ohio. J was homeless “off and on” for six years. She has been a peer specialist for 5 years. In order for an individual to be eligible to apply for the peer specialist position, that individual has to have a mental health diagnosis, have a history of homelessness, and not have any active arrest warrants. J engages in street outreach 2 hours a week with the PATH Specialists.
J explained that during her years of homelessness, she slept in her truck behind people’s houses and in the woods. There were several times that strangers allowed her to sleep on their couches. According to J, “looking how to get alcohol and drugs 24 hours a day was my job.”
She was able to obtain food from local food pantries and meal centers. She reported that she never stayed in homeless shelters. She stated “I was kind of an outcast”.
She believes her bad experiences during childhood were what led to her symptoms of mental illness. She referred to her childhood as a nightmare; she was physically abused by her father when she was a child. Her babysitters and her father’s “army buddies” would also rape and beat her. She said when her mom and dad would fight, they wouldn’t feed the kids.
J reported that she abused drugs during the times she was homeless, surmising that her mental illness and drug abuse led to her homelessness. Drugs were her biggest barrier to a better life. She explained that she does not blame anyone else for the choices that she made.
J She has been stably housed for about 10 years now. She volunteers her spare time at Transitional Living, ensuring that individuals in need receive food, hygiene items, clothes and blankets. She currently receives social security disability and uses a portion of those funds to ensure they receive these items.
Charles Garrison from Fairfield Covenant Community Church generously volunteered his time to teach a sleeping mat making class to Transitional Living volunteers. The mats were made completely out of plastic grocery bags and their purpose is to give homeless individuals a cushioned and dry sleeping area. Unlike blankets, these mats are water resistant, lightweight and easily rolled up and carried. The PATH team at Transitional Living keep these mats in their cars to hand out to homeless individuals that are sleeping outdoors.
J participated in this class and called it “very therapeutic”. She stated “it occupies some time. It is something to look forward to knowing that you can help someone and give it to someone. It feels good to know you made it with your own hands”.
This class appeared to increased confidence for Transitional Living’s mentally ill clients as they were able to be involved with a meaningful activity. This activity was very interactive and challenged clients to continue to try even when they felt like giving up. Individuals worked alone and together. Clients encouraged each other and helped each other to understand the directions. Transitional Living looks forward to planning more activities in the future that both help our mentally ill clients and gives back to our community. J has been a helpful addition to the PATH team as she can directly relate to the individuals we serve.
Butler County’s PATH team’s office is located at Transitional Living. Stacey Arbino, LSW supervises the PATH specialists, Karissa and Marissa. Meghan Parys, LISW is the clinical supervisor over the outreach team.
We first met S three years ago shortly after he had moved to Akron. He denied having any mental health needs and said he was looking only for a place to shower and do wash clothes periodically while homeless. We noticed S behaved in a paranoid manner, spoke in a way that lacked organization and found it difficult to do laundry. However, he mentioned having earned a degree in chemistry and working as a teacher in the past.
Throughout the years, our PATH team continued to check on S at the outdoor campsite where he was living and allowed him to access the dayroom for services. S did not get along well with other clients and needed redirection and supervision while on-site. S was mistrustful of most staff, but over time developed a rapport with our PATH worker, Shayne. Shayne would attempt to engage S in services and offered to assist S in finding housing, but to no avail; securing employment was S’s focus. Shayne would refer him to supportive employment and help finding him clothing to wear on interviews but unfortunately, S would not follow through with his appointments.
A few months ago, we received a call from the local hospital, stating that they had a patient they would like to connect with our PATH program. After getting more information, we realized it was S. S had gone to the ER for a medical issue and ended up being admitted for psychiatric disturbance.
We felt that this could be our opportunity to finally connect S to services and housing, and we had just the guy to do it: Shayne. Although S had been combative with the doctors and nurses, S’s demeanor changed around Shayne. Shayne was able to get him to agree to look at an apartment for chronically homeless individuals that had just opened up. S liked the unit, agreed to complete an intake with our agency, and even agreed to see a psychiatrist for the first time.
S has been in his apartment for a few months now and while there have been several bumps along the way, he has remained indoors when we thought he would leave. Although he continues to refuse medication and has little insight into his illness, S has been seeing our psychiatrist and has been working with our supportive employment team. S would have never gotten this far had it not been for the kindness and persistence of PATH Outreach Worker, Shayne.
K is a 60 year old Navy Veteran who moved from Columbiana County to Utah in 2015. He was admitted to the Utah State Hospital in August, 2015 and remained hospitalized until May, 2016. K was under civil commitment for numerous misdemeanors, one of which included the charge of Trespassing Keven’s hospital records indicated that he had been living in the forest since his arrival in Utah. At admission, he was extremely paranoid, delusional and unable to take care of his basic needs. When he improved sufficiently for discharge, he asked to return to Columbiana County. The hospital staff contacted the PATH Program to plan for K’s discharge and to coordinate K’s return to Columbiana County. Within discharge planning, hospital staff and the PATH team discussed K’s health needs, which included treatment and monitoring of advanced glaucoma, primary health care and treatment for mental illness. We also discussed support needs, such as reinstatement of K’s Social Security Disability, payeeship, securing necessary identification, linkage to Veteran’s services and safe and stable housing. Because of this careful discharge planning, The PATH program was able to plan well for K’s return. Staff of the hospital accompanied K on the airplane ride to Pittsburgh International Airport; PATH staff arranged for a cab ride from Pittsburgh directly to the Kendall Home Emergency Shelter in Lisbon, Ohio. (The Kendall Home is an emergency shelter that is used exclusively for homeless adults with serious and persistent mental illnesses.)
K was very relieved to be home. He was linked with mental health, primary health and ophthalmology services in a timely way. While at the Kendall Home, he developed acute bronchitis, which was also treated in a timely way. He was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and prescribed oxygen, which he continues to need.
During his stay at the Kendall Home, PATH staff were able to determine his housing needs and preferences. K did not think he could live independently, as his vision was extremely deteriorated, but did not want to live in a group setting. He described himself as a “loner.” Although initially reluctant to be linked to the Veteran’s Administration, PATH staff were able to persuade him to at least determine what the VA could offer him. This included a VA pension and financial assistance under the VA Aide and Attendance Program. Because of this financial assistance, Keven was able to move into an assisted living facility. This enabled him to have private space, yet receive needed assistance for daily living tasks. This would not have been affordable for K if he did not take advantage of benefits that he had earned through the Veteran’s Administration. PATH staff also helped K obtain identification documents necessary to access other needed benefits and entitlements.
After several months in Assisted Living, K decided to move in with a friend who provides support K needs. This is a safe and stable setting, and K prefers this home atmosphere to the atmosphere in assisted living.
While involved in the PATH program, K established a friendship with one of the PATH volunteers, a person with serious mental illness who was previously homeless. They remain friends to this day!
K continues to receive case management and payeeship sevices through the Counseling Center. He receives other health services and supports through the Veteran’s Administration and health specialists.
I called K yesterday, prior to writing this article. He said, “I am happy, Chris and that is all I ever wanted out of life!! We are very proud of K. Without the targeted and organized assistance from the PATH program, K’s transition back to Columbiana County and his access to services and supports needed for his recovery would not have gone nearly as smoothly.
The first time I met B he was just 20 years old, and had been walked into the lobby of my agency by staff at our Central Intake out of concern he may need to be taken to a hospital. He appeared extremely paranoid, would barely speak or look at me, and had told staff he was feeling suicidal. I could tell immediately that it would take a lot of engagement and rapport building before he would work with me, and that we had a long road ahead of us if he was going to become stable and housed.
B’s extreme distrust of people began to make sense as I learned about his trauma history: his father had been incarcerated most of his life for various drug charges, and his mother had moved to Arizona with her boyfriend when B was just 18 years old. She had told her son that he was not invited to come along, and that he was an adult who now had to fend for himself. He had no income or supports, and ended up squatting in his empty house until forced to leave by police. He had been between the shelter and the streets ever since, but had never engaged in social services because of his trust issues.
Although he agreed to go to the hospital with me that first day, after being admitted for psychiatric stabilization B felt I had manipulated him into going to the hospital and refused to speak with me when I visited him there. However, he eventually came around and began to work with myself and the social worker on the floor when he realized it would quicken his discharge. B would only agree to go back to the shelter when he was finally discharged, and as I drove him back to Central Intake the day of his release I knew the odds he would stay engaged with me were not very good. In reality, it was the beginning of a two year process of building trust with my client as he drifted in and out of the shelter and services at Frontline.
As we got to know each other and B’s trust in me slowly grew, he admitted he struggled with accepting that he had a severe mental illness. While he already had an extensive history of hospitalizations at just 20 years old, he did have periods of clarity that lead both of us to question his diagnosis and what his needs were. However, B continued to attend outpatient psychiatric appointments with me through Frontline Service, although he still struggled with medication compliancy at times. Eventually, I was able to find him housing through a program at YWCA called Independence Place, which offers Permanent Supportive Housing for young adults aged 18-24. Once housed, I closed B’s case; but that would not be the last time I saw him.
About a year later, I received a call from Mobile Crisis asking for my assistance with a case. A staff at Independence Place had called about B, who had stopped taking medication and appeared to be having a psychotic episode. When the Mobile Crisis Team went to the site to assess him, B refused to speak to anyone but me.
I walked into the lobby of Independence Place to encounter a tense scene: several YWCA staff as well as Mobile Crisis staff were in the lobby with B, appearing to be in a stand-off. No one spoke as I entered, but when B saw me his face broke out into a huge smile, he gave me a hearty high-five and said “Now that’s my buddy. I’ll go to the hospital, but only if she takes me.”
It warmed my heart that I had gained his trust, and that he even remembered who I was. Unfortunately, B was having a psychotic episode and ultimately refused to go to the hospital at all despite clearly needing to be stabilized in an inpatient psychiatric unit. He was probated by Mobile Crisis, and evicted from the YWCA. I re-opened his case immediately to make sure he had assistance finding housing again when he got out of the hospital.
When I re-opened his case, I expected to encounter difficulties with keeping B psychiatrically stable in the community as I learned he had refused to take any psychiatric medications or see a doctor while living at YWCA; and had decided firmly he did not have a severe mental illness. Much to my surprise, he showed up in the lobby at Frontline on his own the day of his discharge. We met in an office and he presented me with his discharge paperwork and prescriptions, asking for help filling them and staying on them. I was so surprised and impressed at the insight and responsibility this young man exhibited despite all the challenges he faced, and I told him as much. “I’m really proud of you”, I said, reflecting on how scary it must be to admit to yourself you have a severe mental illness. B smiled shyly and seemed not to know what to say in response. Eventually he responded simply “No one’s ever said that to me before.”
As luck would have it, I was able to re-house B relatively quickly in another Permanent Supportive Housing program for 18-24 year olds where he is currently doing really well. He still expresses paranoia about other social workers and likes me to sit in on appointments with him, but he is looking for part-time work and was recently approved for Social Security Disability benefits through our SOAR Program. Every time he applies for a new job or achieves any small accomplishment he sends me a text to let me know, and I continue to encourage and cheer him on. I don’t know if he knows just how incredible everything he has managed to accomplish is considering the challenges he faced to get where he is today. But I feel privileged to have not only gained his trust, but to have been a part of his journey to wellness and recovery.
C lived in Cleveland most of his life. He grew up in a large family where both parents worked. He had a good relationship with his mother but C and his father did not see eye to eye on many issues, which led C to rebel. The older C became, the harder life was for him. He enjoyed the street life and everything that came with it, including drug and alcohol abuse.
C stayed out of major trouble until the age of 27, when he went to prison for the first time. At times, he felt that being in prison was easier and kept him out of getting into more trouble. When he wasn’t in jail or prison, he was in shelters or living in motels.
During this cycle of incarceration and homelessness, C injured his back and shoulder, and complications from these injuries resulted in sporadic unemployment. His 2002 anxiety and bipolar diagnoses created a further barrier to keeping jobs, and eventually C was awarded disability.
Twice married and the father of nine children, C values family bonds deeply. He doesn’t see his children as often as he would like due to distance but does stay in touch by phone. When his last marriage ended earlier this year, C relocated to Canton to start over. Having no one to stay with, C found himself in another motel.
One day while visiting the Salvation Army, he heard about resources available through the ICAN Housing program. Once settled temporarily in an ICAN hotel, C enrolled in the PATH Program to address his health and employment crises.
Today, C has his own apartment and maintains part time employment. He is active in his church and enjoys helping others in need. He still calls into the office or stops by to talk and see how we are doing. Staff at ICAN say it is always a pleasure to see how he continues to move forward with positive life goals.
Help Hotline Crisis Center staff first met M in 2004.
M is a generationally homeless, as his parents had also been homeless for many years and had been served by Help Hotline Outreach staff prior to their deaths.
Initially, when approached by outreach staff, M refused most types of assistance offered to him, particularly substance abuse treatment. Requests for clothing and blankets were made and given but M continued to remain living outdoors and drinking. Despite repeated efforts from outreach staff to try and get M into treatment for his addiction issue, he refused for years, sometimes very vehemently.
Through the persistence of the CABHI addiction outreach specialist, the peer support staff and the PATH outreach staff, M eventually decided to give treatment a try; he remained in the program for one day and decided it wasn't for him.
It wasn't until the death of one of M's close friends triggered an exacerbation of M's childhood mental illness, depression. Along with feeling sad, M also became anxious and fearful, especially about his safety and the presence of possible intruders into the homeless camp where he had been staying. M made the decision to commit to to taking the necessary steps to change his life for the better. And upon that decision, he entered a detox center.
At the time of this writing, M has been sober for 75 days and is looking forward to obtaining employment and housing. When asked what was the deciding factor that changed his mind, M said he wanted to be free of the anxiety that plagued him living on the street and the cycle of self medicating the anxiety caused.
Functioning within a structured treatment program has been difficult for M, as he now has to follow someone else's rules when he was so used to making his own; he can no longer just come and go when he chooses. But M sees that all of these changes have ultimately been beneficial. He has become more relaxed when interacting with others, especially strangers, and his attendance at his meetings and appointments is consistent now that PATH staff are attending them with him.
M states he wishes he had cooperated earlier with outreach staff because he could have embarked on the road to his recovery sooner. Living outdoors and drinking and with strangers takes a toll on the mind and body, he says.
Throughout his childhood, youth, and early adulthood D struggled with bad decision making and the resulting consequences. He wound up in a juvenile detention center fourteen times, and was incarcerated twice after he became an adult. Finally his mother had had enough. She told him he was not welcome in her home anymore. At age 18, D became homeless.
There’s no way this story has a happy ending, right? Wrong.
In June of 2011 Leah Houser, a PATH homeless outreach coordinator for Extended Housing, an agency in the Lake County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) network of providers, reached out to D and linked him with mental health services through a local provider. Initially D was not compliant and his struggles continued. Not one to give up easily, Leah continued to check in on him and bring him bus vouchers, hand-warmers, food gift certificates, clothing and encouragement.
In April 2015, Leah was aware of an opening through the Shelter Plus Care program and felt D was a good prospect. Leah tracked D down and helped him fill out the necessary paperwork. She coordinated her efforts with D’s psychiatrist and Extended Housing.
Eventually, D was approved for a voucher. Then things got tricky. D’s criminal history made it difficult to find a landlord willing to rent to him. And while D wanted and needed to be near resources it was not a good idea for him to have contact with some of the people he had met while he was homeless.
Leah learned of an opening at McKinley Grove, a supportive housing apartment community owned and operated by Extended Housing. She successfully advocated for D, and he moved in to McKinley Grove in June of 2015.
It was not an entirely smooth transition. D had never lived independently so he had some issues keeping his unit clean, keeping himself occupied and not being drawn back into relationships with what he now calls “leeches,”people who were looking to take advantage of him. But the McKinley Grove team worked patiently with him, and offered guidance and structure.
Their perseverance paid off. Today D is 24. He works when he can – sometimes as a roofer or landscaper, other times as a freelance IT person. He regularly volunteers at the McKinley Grove Community Gardens, and participates in their weekly community dinners and game nights. He enjoys spending time with Isabella, the service dog who makes monthly visits to McKinley Grove. His apartment unit is now tidy and free of unwelcome visitors. He is making efforts to mend his broken relationship with his mother and they keep in touch.
The turnaround in this young man’s life has been dramatic. Much of the credit goes, of course, to Leah, Extended Housing, the Shelter Plus Care program and PATH. But the lion’s share belongs to D. His commitment to climbing out of the very deep hole he had dug for himself is truly inspiring.
I first met P about 10 years ago. She was a frequent user of the Engagement Center in Columbus Ohio, which is an inebriate unit shelter for homeless people. P ran with a very rough crowd of individuals who lived on the streets and often used the shelter as a place for safety and respite from the streets. I lost track of P as she stopped utilizing the shelter services.
P resurfaced about two years ago while I was doing street outreach with the Southeast Inc. PATH program for people with mental health and AOD issues. She was living by herself in a small camp in a wooded area behind a local Walmart. She lived alone in her camp with only the companionship of her cat Bandit. She later told me the cat got her name one day, as P sat down to eat an Oreo cookie, and when she twisted it apart into two halves and set one down, the kitty snatched one half of the cookie and ran away to eat it. It was clear P and Bandit are bonded and Bandit has been her source of love and companionship since they found each other.
P has suffered a tremendous amount of trauma in her life starting at an early age. She began struggling with psychiatric symptoms at age 10 and begin drinking alcohol at the age of 14. Throughout the years P has battled with major depression and AOD issues. This eventually led to her becoming homeless and living on the streets. The situation became much worse about five years ago when P's daughter was violently murdered and P was asked to identify the body.
Over the years there have been several attempts to address P’s issues, but she was never able to fully engage or sustain any treatment efforts. She became much more despondent as she became isolated, living in the woods and panhandling as a means of survival.
P had become extremely distrustful of others and of failed efforts to help her in the past. When an outreach worker from Maryhaven, Inc. and I found her in the woods, we worked especially hard on building a rapport with P. This came in the form of honesty and consistency, while being willing to address issues with P at the level where she was able to work with us. Most important, in my opinion, was always keeping my word and appointments as scheduled. It was obvious P had been let down many times over the years when people had attempted to help her. Honesty, compassion and consistency seemed to be the keys to P's successful service delivery.
We began by obtaining her birth certificate and Social Security card (this is sometimes very difficult and time consuming, depending on circumstances). I was quite shocked when we finally went to the BMV to obtain her documentation and found she had been living on the streets with no form of ID for a decade!
The other outreach worker and I linked her to mental health services through Southeast, and Maryhaven began preparing and processing her application for subsidized housing. We worked in conjunction with other Maryhaven Collaborative Outreach Team agencies to address primary health care needs, and P’s cat was also linked to the veterinarian services through a volunteer agency. We looked at all avenues of housing and support, and we were able to get P linked to housing within six months.
Southeast and Maryhaven outreach members assisted P with maneuvering through the subsidized housing process and getting moved into her housing unit. A case manager from the Southeast Cooperative Agreement to Benefit Homeless Individuals was also added to the support the housing transition. Three times a week, P discussed her fears and apprehension of trying to re-normalize her lifestyle with a Southeast therapist. And we linked her with resources to obtain furniture and an energy assistance program for her utilities.
As time has progressed over the last five months, P has been able to pursue and obtain sobriety. She began attending AA meetings and sober support groups. She has also started the process of obtaining a vendor's license to sell a local homeless newspaper and with the Southeast Center of Vocational Alternatives to receive vocational assistance.
P and Bandit continue to push forward through this transition together. I sometimes visit with her in her new home and I'm absolutely amazed at her progress. Just to see her sober, tending to daily household chores and not agonizing over how she will survive another day on the streets, more than justify my efforts. As P's first winter approaches in her new home, I am very pleased to know that I will not have to worry about P and Bandit behind the Walmart in their cold, dark tent.
K is a 67 year old male, who has worked many various jobs throughout his lifetime. K was born and raised in Lorain, Ohio and has resided here his whole life. K has been married and divorced three times, and has one daughter and one granddaughter. K’s parents are both deceased. He has three siblings, two of whom are deceased. His one remaining sister is unable to help care for him.
According to K, his childhood was filled with violence, due to an alcoholic father who was abusive to his mother and the children. His parents separated when he was 7 years old. After his father left, K began experiencing feelings of anxiety, anger and isolation. He began self medicating by huffing gas out of the family tractor until he passed out. He quickly moved to alcohol and by the age of 14, he was drinking as much as he was able to get. K was in and out of detention homes and juvenile facilities for the remainder of his teenage years.
K could not manage relationships with people and experienced a cycle of homelessness. He burned many bridges with his family and had no one to turn to for help. As his family members passed, K never addressed his grief, but instead turned deeper into his alcoholism. At the time K became affiliated with Lorain County Catholic Charities PATH, he was living in abandoned houses and in the parking garage of an abandoned local hotel.
Outreach worker Louis Balzer found K in an abandoned house suffering from hypothermia. Lou took K to the hospital and arranged for him to enter Laurelwood treatment center upon release. K completed treatment at Laurelwood and was released. Unfortunately, though, he did not remain sober; as soon as he received his social security check, he would drink until all the money was gone and he was broke again. Lou then got K connected with the Nord Center to have him assessed for mental illness. K was diagnosed with adjustment disorder with anxiety, antisocial personality disorder and bi-polar disorder.
K has been a client on and off with PATH for about a year and a half but wasn’t always as receptive to help as he could have been. Throughout that time, PATH assisted K by helping him enter three substance abuse treatment facilities, connect with mental health services and find safe and stable housing. As Lou continued working with K, he had noticed K was very forgetful and that he was continuing to drink heavily. The last time K entered a residential treatment facility, he wandered off and was missing for a couple days. K was found by the police and taken to the hospital. When Lou arrived at the hospital, K had no recollection of having been at the treatment facility.
Lou began the process of having K evaluated by a specialist, and it was determined that K was suffering from major neuro-cognitive disorder (dementia). Lou worked with K to get him a payee, and helped get a family friend to become K’s legal guardian. K is now housed in a secured facility with 24 hour supervision and is safe and receiving treatment. K was unable to manage his life because of several factors, some that were obvious and some that weren’t. Without the PATH team stepping in and building a relationship of trust with K, he may never have received the help he needed.
Everyone has a story and sometimes it takes a team of caring people to make sure there is a happy ending to that story.
M is a 37-year old female from Racine, Wisconsin who lives in Toledo. She has five children, eight grandchildren and a host of other family and friends. M is a state tested nursing assistant with certification in medical assisting and phlebotomy. However, she has not always been able to boast about her success and her support system. She has struggled through mental health issues since the age of 14.
The product of parents who were drug and alcohol addicted, M, a teen mom was left to raise her younger siblings while struggling through her own fragile mental state. The worst of her problems were triggered by the loss of her eight month old daughter to SIDS. This resulted in her being hospitalized for eight months in a mental health facility. Upon her release, she was still a minor and did not follow-up with treatment.
Fleeing a domestic violence relationship M became homeless in 2010. She moved around between family members and friends. She was unable to keep steady employment and she struggled through financial issues. Meanwhile, her mental state continued to become more and more unstable. She landed at Rebekah’s Haven, a shelter for women with children, where she was referred to PATH and introduced to John Whitlow.
Whitlow took M to Rescue Crisis where she was assessed and placed with a mental health agency. She was referred to Family Services of Northwest Ohio for psychiatric services. She connected with a therapist who she sees bi-weekly, a psychiatrist who she sees monthly, and to a domestic violence support group.
PATH assisted M with obtaining housing, furniture and medical assistance, and provided transportation for her and her children.
It has been over eleven month since PATH intervened. M’s condition is now stable. She is enrolled in a college social work program. She continues to see her therapist and psychiatrist, and she takes her medication regularly. She also volunteers at Rebekah’s Haven.
M said the hardest parts of getting the services she needed were entering a shelter with her children, admitting that she needed help and discussing the abuse she endured throughout her life.
The best advice she can give to someone going through similar struggles is, “never be too ashamed to ask for help. Pray continually and faithfully. Know that mental illness is not your fault.”
M is a 63 year old male who had been homeless in Hamilton County off and on for the last 10 years. The Hamilton County PATH staff engaged him regularly during those 10 years but M resisted treatment, and struggled with chronic substance abuse, mental illness, managing benefits/money and a limited support system. Due to symptomatic behavior and ongoing drug use, M refused to utilize Hamilton County shelters, forcing him to stay in abandoned buildings, parks, camps and the woods.
Over the past 10 years, M had been connected to many services, including mental health case management, substance abuse treatment, Medicaid, income benefits, medical treatment and housing. However, M would not follow through with services and was in denial that he would need assistance from others. Eventually, M lost all housing placements for not paying rent, dropped out of mental health services, refused medical treatment, lost Medicaid and income benefits (more than once), continued to use substances with Crack and Alcohol being his drugs of choice, and checked out of multiple substance abuse treatment programs.
Throughout the years the Hamilton County PATH Team continued to support M and consistently referred and linked him to appropriate services. In November 2015, M decided that he did not want to live on the streets anymore and was willing to let people into his life to help guide him towards his goals. That month M connected with the CABHI Grant Program (Cooperative Agreement to Benefit Homeless Individuals) with Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services. For the next 4 months M continued to have frequent contact with law enforcement (due to chronic and aggressive panhandling) and using substances; however, he was consistent with his appointments with CABHI and PATH workers, kept an appointment at a local medical clinic for a physical, and was able to get his medical and income benefits restarted. In February 2016, M agreed to work with his CABHI CTI worker and a Shelter + Care Housing Program through our local CoC who house chronically homeless individuals living with mental illness to find his own apartment. 1 month later M moved into his apartment. M continues to live in his apartment but often visits his same homeless camp locations. He continues to struggle with some of the same issues as when he was homeless (ongoing substance use, budgeting monthly income, and finding daily structured activity); however, M is active with all his treatment providers and finds hope with the support system wrapped around him. He continues to receive mental health case management services with Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services and McMicken Health Clinic and is engaging with all his providers.
M is grateful to both PATH and CABHI workers who didn’t give up on him and recently came to the Hamilton County PATH office to check in with his PATH worker and thank him for all the referrals. He says he is “grateful for all the support he has seen and enjoys his new apartment and neighbors.”
This video shows Jim on August 31, 2015, as he transitioned from living in a wooded area in the Dayton area. He was very happy to move to his new apartment. He knew he would be able to afford the rent, and was very grateful to have furnishings and household items.
In October of 2013, Jim was living with his mother, following the death of his wife. When his mother became ill and moved in with another family member, Jim found himself without the resources to find and attain his own home. He found himself in homelessness, on October 11, 2013.
It was a warm July Sunday in 2015 when it was discovered through a police call by the Fairfield Police Department that a 54 year old man was homeless, living in the wood line in front of a department store. Officer Tom Wolf responded to that call, with the fire department, after the man had called for assistance. While speaking to him, Wolf discovered the man was married and a preacher, and had fallen into drinking alcohol daily due to life circumstance and on-going depression.
Wanting to find him help, Wolf obtained a phone number for the man's wife and called her to see if she was willing and able to help him. At that time, the wife stated that although she had a desire to assist, she was not in a position to do so due to his heavy drinking and untreated mental health needs.
Wolf contacted the On Call Transitional Living PATH Program and was accompanied to the location by Kathy Becker (CEO & Homeless Outreach/Criminal Justice Coordinator). They were also joined by the man's wife, adult son and cousin. As the man came out of the woods, he was greeted by hugs and tears from his family who noted that they thought they had lost him.
Through conversations and phone calls that day, clinically appropriate treatment was arranged in the man's hometown in Kentucky. As the man's belongings were being gathered, everyone turned Wolf and began tearfully thanking and hugging him. The man's wife stated that Wolf was the family's angel.
Wolf thanked Transitional Living and the PATH Program for the training they gave the police department and its willingness to respond "24-7."
It was later discovered the man had an open warrant in the jurisdiction for shop lifting. However, it was dropped due to all the partners working together to empower this gentleman on the road to recovery.
S is a 50 year man who was raised in the south. He earned a bachelor's and master's degree and worked as an addiction counselor for many years. He had married his high school sweetheart and together they rescued dogs from a local animal shelter. About 15 years ago, S started to feel different. He often forgot where he was and what he was doing, and started to experience an altered reality. S soon began to believe that he was being followed and closely watched. Because of his paranoia, S fled his hometown, leaving his wife, his rescue animals and his career. At the time, he believed that he was saving them from potentially harmful forces.
Shortly after S left his hometown he had his first psychiatric hospitalization. For the next decade, he continued to enter and leave hospitals all over the country. He became involved in programs in nearly every state that he entered, but the paranoia always seemed to return, and S would soon leave the new state in search of a safe location. The longest S had voluntarily remained in one area was two weeks.
When first meeting S, he appeared uncertain and fearful. He had been homeless for about 10 years of his life when Community Support Services first became involved. The PATH workers first met with S in the hospital psychiatric unit where he told us he'd never felt fully comfortable or safe in one location. S first started working with our program through out-patient commitment which he remained involved with.
Safety and comfort became our top priority with S. He started to receive mental health treatment, assistance with government benefits, and we immediately started to formulate a housing plan, with S's preference being the most important.
S moved into a group home for a period of time. Although S struggled with his new adjustment, he started to become self-confident and more comfortable with his surroundings. He began actively participating in group therapy, individual therapy and psychiatric appointments. S also gained some important and useful skills for living independently. While in the group home, S had completed the 90 days the court had required for his outpatient commitment. S remained compliant with the PATH workers and continued to be engaged in treatment.
With the help of the PATH program through Community Support Services and Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, he had keys to his own apartment for the first time in over 10 years. S then started to work with CABHI (Cooperative Agreement to Benefit Homelessness). With the help of his new CABHI worker, S learned valuable skills, including navigating the community, food preparation and forming social relationships. S is still involved with the CABHI program and through ongoing support is living independently.
C is a 45 year old man who was homeless for six months, sleeping in a tent at the Beaver Creek State Park. In March of 2014 C suffered a stroke and consequently is paralyzed on the left side of his body with no range of movement in his left arm and limited range of movement in his left leg. Additionally, he is dually-diagnosed with major depression and alcohol dependency. Because the PATH Program of Columbiana County has high visibility in the community with organizations that serve homeless people, it was contacted by park rangers who were concerned about C’s wellbeing. The PATH worker and PATH volunteer, a formerly homeless person in recovery with serious mental illness, arrived at the campground in an attempt to provide outreach, engagement and peer support. Upon initial contact, C expressed suicidal ideations and disclosed he had been smoking crack and abusing alcohol for the months. PATH staff discussed the New Vision Drug and Alcohol Medical Stabilization Program at East Liverpool Hospital, and persuaded C to accept the help that was available to him there. C was agreeable and allowed PATH staff to transport him to the hospital to be assessed for admission. Eventually, he was admitted to the Stabilization Unit and then transferred to the behavioral health unit. PATH staff and PATH volunteers visited with C over the next 2 weeks while he was hospitalized and arranged for a formal mental health assessment with the PATH diagnostic assessor.
PATH staff worked closely with the Social Worker at the East Liverpool Hospital behavioral health unit in preparation for C’s discharge and transition into the community. PATH staff arranged for C to be temporarily housed at Kendall Home, an emergency shelter for persons with serious mental illness. PATH Outreach staff worked one-on-one with C to secure necessary supports, such as home health care, substance abuse services, case management, primary healthcare and psychiatric medical services, to allow C to live successfully in the least restrictive environment of his choice. PATH staff also contacted C’s health insurance provider, Care Source, to secure a medical case manager and to enroll C in the Waiver Program which provides him skilled nursing and home health care in an independent living setting. Outreach workers accompanied C to the Columbiana County Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) for his yearly redetermination for food stamps and Medicaid.
Unfortunately, because C had been awarded $1,378.00 a month in Social Security disability payments, he was no longer eligible for Care Source and would have to meet a spend-down of $768.00 each month in order to be eligible for Medicaid. C panicked; he could not meet the spend-down and without healthcare insurance he could not afford the hundreds of dollars in prescription costs each month. The lack of health care insurance would mean that he could not afford ongoing medical treatment for his high blood pressure, cholesterol, and ongoing physical problems which required ongoing physical and occupational therapy to improve his range of movement and increase his ability to function independently. PATH staff contacted ODJFS and made an appointment to speak with a certified counselor to explore his eligibility for the marketplace health insurance program. C was enrolled in the insurance program for a cost of 80.00 per month and was deemed eligible for the waiver program and would be provided with ongoing skilled nursing and home health care providers.
Another barrier for C was the fact that over $960.00 was being deducted from his Social Security check for child support which left C with merely $418.00 to live on each month. PATH staff accompanied C to the Child Support Office and requested an administrative review of his child support case. After the formal review, C’s child support obligation was reduced by $840.00, allowing him to live in an independent living environment and take care of his personal needs.
PATH workers and volunteers worked diligently to find a handicapped-accessible apartment for C to live in, but we were faced with many challenges. C was convicted of a felony two years ago after his fifth DUI and was sent to prison for 18 months. Due to C’s conviction, he was rejected for tenancy by all apartment complexes that had handicapped units available. However, PATH staff were able to secure an apartment at Apple Grove Homes for C. Initially, the unit was not handicapped accessible but PATH staff continued to advocate for C and urged the apartment manager to make special accommodations in the bathroom to allow C to function independently and safely.
C is a success story. He worked as a team member with PATH staff and volunteers and despite many barriers and challenges, together we found solutions. Today, C is living at Apple Grove Homes; working part-time with the help of the Columbiana Counseling Center’s Supported Employment Program, receiving home health care and skilled nursing services; and has health care insurance to provide for all of his health care needs. C states, “Without this program, without its support, I wouldn’t have made it. PATH saved my life.”
The first time I met O was at a liquor store, one of the few occupied buildings among the rows and rows of abandoned houses that make up East Cleveland. The liquor store’s owner had called the Adult Mobile Crisis Team (AMCT) hotline because O, who frequently visited the store, was squatting in one of the abandoned houses nearby and seemed to have symptoms of a severe mental illness. AMCT gave the referral to PATH, and I outreached O the same day.
He was small and malodorous, his whole body seemed to move involuntarily, and he seemed to be responding to internal stimulation; but O had a smile that could light up a room. Although suffering from psychotic symptoms, O was very friendly and readily agreed to talk with me. After asking him a few simple questions about the symptoms he was experiencing and any history of mental health treatment, I knew O would benefit from a hospital stay for inpatient psychiatric treatment. Typically when I suggest this to a client in O’s situation they balk and other measures need to be taken; O agreed immediately. I transported him myself, and despite his significant level of psychosis, we talked about music and where we were from, building a fast rapport.
In the following weeks I visited O in the hospital, getting to know him more. He had agreed to take an injection of Prolixin, an anti-psychotic medication, which would help to keep him stable in the community as he wouldn’t have to remember to take oral meds. However he was not agreeing to any placement after the hospital except going back to the abandoned house he was squatting in. Eventually he agreed to stay with his cousin, who lived nearby, but I suspected this was just to put an end to the questions about where he would go, and made sure to get the address of his squat just in case.
Sure enough, O’s cousin told me he hadn’t seen him in weeks when I showed up, so I went to the abandoned house. From the dilapidated back porch I called O’s name, not wanting to enter unless I knew it was safe. He called back to me immediately, and pushed the already-wide-open back door out for me to enter. Since O refused to sleep anywhere else, I had to make sure that the condition of the house did not represent a threat to his safety; additionally, that he had what he needed to meet his basic needs.
“I’ll show you my room!” he said, leading me up a staircase littered with trash. We walked into what had once been a master bedroom, much of the previous owner’s furniture and personal effects still in place. O picked an old, worn photograph off the floor and showed it to me: an older woman, bearing his striking resemblance, and what appeared to be baby O, in front of a Christmas tree. “That’s my grandma. She lives in a nursing home now.” I finally understood why O refused to leave the abandoned house. It was his childhood home, where his family had lived, and he was the last remaining member holding down the fort.
In the next weeks and months while O and I worked on getting his benefits and an apartment to call his own, I came to understand how he had wound up alone in the house: O and his siblings were all raised there by his Grandmother, with no real contact with their parents. As his grandmother aged it became increasingly difficult to pay the bills, and eventually the house was foreclosed on. Not long after, O’s grandmother was put into a nursing facility by one of his older siblings, and they lost touch. All adults now, the older siblings moved off one by one, most not going farther than a few blocks. Only O stayed behind, visiting the liquor store every day to buy food, until his emerging psychiatric symptoms prompted the owner to call AMCT.
It took about a year to get O his own apartment in Permanent Supportive Housing, during which time he remained in the abandoned house but never stopped taking his medications. In the cold months I brought him a tent and mountains of blankets to keep warm; in the warm I brought him extra water and hygiene kits. The day I moved him into his apartment, O smiled his huge smile at me and said, “I thought I was going to be homeless forever.”
I still see O in the lobby at our agency sometimes, and each time he tells me how great his new place is, as if he just moved in yesterday. And each time he shows me that big shining smile, but there’s something different about it now: pride.
Mental health symptoms began for TC around the age of 16. She recalls instances of verbal and physical abuse and said, at that age, she learned she was adopted. This realization triggered depression and anxiety, and resulted in several psychiatric hospitalizations until adulthood. She reports approximately 6-7 admissions.
TC was first homeless at the age of 25. She couch surfed for about a year and stayed in various rental properties owned by her parents. She said these brief periods of housing were interrupted by spans of incarceration. This was the start of a homeless history which to date totals five shelter stays and four homeless episodes. However, TC was never out on the street for very long. “When you are homeless you can find a place to stay by what you can offer and the things you had to do,” she intimates.
TC is now 43. She sought out services from ICAN Housing in November 2014. At that time, she was nearing completion of a two month rehabilitation program in a treatment facility in a neighboring county. TC was homeless upon entry to the facility and was going to be homeless upon discharge. Therefore, she was looking to relocate for a fresh start.
TC explained she searched online for housing services in Stark County and stumbled upon ICAN Housing’s information. TC’s outreach to ICAN Housing was welcomed when she placed the call. She spoke with Amilah Williams, ICAN’s Front Desk Administrator. (TC wanted to make sure this employee was mentioned in the article.) TC credits Amilah for getting her on her journey because she listened carefully to her circumstances and was able to connect her with PATH staff quickly.
During her first visit to ICAN Housing, TC was connected with local resources and information. She worked diligently with PATH and was determined to make things happen. She was referred by PATH to mental health services and a treatment provider. Within three weeks of initial contact with PATH, she obtained housing and has maintained this housing for nearly one year.
TC resides in a Safe Haven, housing for formerly homeless and hard-to-serve individuals. TC likes the environment of this housing unit for a number of reasons. She enjoys the company and socialization with other residents, feels secure and no longer suffers from the paranoia of worrying about her safety. TC’s mental health condition is now stable because of regular medication and services. She sees all of her providers as scheduled.
When asked what the hardest thing about her mental illness, she replied, “being labeled.” She went on to say there is a common perception of what someone who is mentally ill looks like. Mental illness is often characterized by people who talk to themselves and babble. TC feels people may think those who are articulate can’t possibly suffer from mental illness.
Another challenge for TC is to maintain sobriety. She has been sober 13 months and says sobriety, for her, goes hand-in-hand with staying on her medication.
TC says to others, “Get help, have faith, stand strong. It’s not easy. But the destination is way better than the journey.”
TC says she is still on her journey and she is going to have bumps, but now she doesn’t have to worry about a lot of things that she used to. TC would not change the past, but would have stopped using drugs earlier and sought mental health treatment sooner. She wishes she would have known the drastic effects drugs can have on a person's life.
The entire PATH department at ICAN Housing would like to acknowledge that TC is very active in giving back to others. TC is on a fixed income but finds it rewarding to be able to financially help family and anyone less fortunate. TC’s graciousness has led her to purchase hygiene and food supplies that she donates back to the PATH department for other homeless individuals. PATH staff still speak with TC regularly. She will often stop by the office to talk with staff and to provide them with laughs.
C, age 47, Administrative assistant
Has 4 daughters
Notable accomplishments/traits: Raised all her children, married for 25 years
Valedectorian of high school, open for persons asking for help, self-sufficient, independent, stronger, advocate for self, empathetic, good listener
Mental health beginning: Probably age 12 or 13 but not diagnosed until in her 40’s, had severe depression episodes, stay up for days; triggers were husband’s cancer, divorce, being molested as a child and raped when homeless; depressed, manic;
Intervention/Treatment: Social worker at the local shelter referred her to treatment at a local mental health agency; without outreach would have ended up in jail
Homeless for 15 months, received temporary housing through a local mental health agency prior to more permanent housing, stayed at the local shelter, sometimes on the street; hard to keep warm and keep clean
Outreach workers interacted with C initially at the local shelter and sometimes on the streets; when on the streets wanted to go somewhere it was warm; stayed in a local hospital at various locations to keep warm
C became involved in the shelter’s work program, initially outreach workers met her basic needs and attempted to get her into mental health treatment, treatment was secured through a referral to local mental health agency worker by shelter social worker, outreach workers assisted in trying to motivate C to get into treatment
C is stable in housing and mental health treatment; she’s medication compliant; recognizes her triggers which increases her anxiety levels, contacts friends if she feels it starts to get too out of hand; is a Warmline peer to peer volunteer shift supervisor; active in NAMI; willing to share her experiences with others
Hardest part of her mental illness: recognizing the triggers, knowing the boundaries
Hardest part of seeking services: have to be resourceful
Hardest part of recovery: maintenance is the hardest part
Advice to share with others: seek help through 211, outreach workers, other agencies including shelters
Experience she knew: go to the shelter to experience it before having to go there
Quote: “meet the people where they are”, “just want someone to listen to you”
In 2011 L lived with his wife in a home they owned in Florida. At some point, however, the marriage began to crumble, and one day she announced she was leaving him. Shortly after that, he found out he was being laid off from his job.
L became severely depressed. He lost all motivation to care for himself in very basic ways – things like showering and eating became tasks that were too overwhelming to deal with. Eventually, L’s untreated depression made him suicidal.
Eventually, L lost his home. His brothers agreed to fund a motel room for him, but after a year with no signs of progress they told him they were no longer willing to do that. L scraped together the money to buy a bus ticket to Ohio, where his ex-wife lived.
He initially landed in Cleveland, where he lived in shelters. Then transitioned to Lake County, where he got connected with Project Hope. It was there he met Jasmine, then a PATH Outreach Worker for an agency called Extended Housing.
Extended Housing is a provider in the Lake County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board network. The ADAMHS Board plans, monitors, evaluates and funds services for Lake County residents who have a mental illness and/or addiction disorder.
Jasmine began working with L. She linked him with mental health services, helped him apply for unemployment benefits and food stamps, and drew maps of Painesville for him so he could find his way around.
Through services and supports L began to stabilize, and Jasmine started the application process for an Extended Housing Homeless Housing Subsidy voucher. Her efforts were successful and L was able to move into an apartment unit in Painesville, where he still lives today.
It has been two years since PATH intervened in L’s life. He got the help he so desperately needed for his depression. He has a roof over his head and food in his pantry. He has a 40 hour-a-week job. He has reconnected with family members, a big step for him.
L says, “today I’m better than I have been for a long, long time. The hard part for me was coming to grips with the fact that I had a mental illness. I could never have imagined my being so depressed that I was utterly incapacitated.”
He credits PATH and Extended Housing for helping turn his life around. “I discovered that nothing is insurmountable, that help is out there, and that asking for help is not a sign of weakness,” he says.
A, 42, was born and raised just Southwest of Columbus, Ohio. She is a mother to three adult children and has one grandchild. Today, she lives in a subsided apartment complex on the West side of Columbus and currently works as a cashier at a local fast food restaurant. But A has experienced her share of difficulties.
She had been unstably housed since she was nine years old. Her mother was married and divorced 3 times and had two stepfathers. A was only four years old when she began being abused by her parents, and that abuse was ongoing throughout her lifetime. She experienced her first mental health crisis at age 12. It was around then that A reported struggling with anxiety and depression. She attempted to discuss her pain with her mother, but her mother refused to acknowledge A’s symptoms and chalked them up to a “stage in life."
When A was 19 years old she sought mental health treatment. However, her involvement in treatment at that time proved to be temporary and ineffective.
In 2013 A’s life became unmanageable and she became homeless. At times she would sleep on couches, in homeless camps, in her car, in motels or in the shelters. In April 2014, while in a local homeless shelter, a PATH outreach worker reached out to A. A was enrolled in PATH that month, but because of her childhood homeless history and untreated mental health, engagement in PATH services was difficult. For about four months, A bounced between shelters, motels and couches, and PATH continued to provide outreach services.
In September 2014, A became fully engaged with PATH services. She was meeting with her PATH outreach worker about twice a month to discuss her mental health needs. A was most affected by lack of motivation, suicidal ideation and not feeling safe. A also became willing to explore resources to end her homelessness. She re-entered a shelter and began working towards finding more permanent housing. PATH referred her to a local housing agency and to CABHI for Critical Time Intervention Services.
In January of 2015, A was housed with at a local subsided housing complex, but PATH worker Keri Bull became aware of an increase in A’s symptoms and advocated for a new housing placement. A agreed that the location was increasing her stress and depression. A few months later A was moved to a new location, is again actively engaged in CABHI and is enjoying her new apartment. A is on a combination of medication that has helped her manage her illness well. She is currently able to work part-time, identify stressors and is working on repairing broken relationships.
When asked if she had any words of wisdom, A said “You don’t have to be homeless to get help; it feels like you’ll never get out of it, but stay positive and don’t lose hope. It may seem like there is no hope but there is! Be patient, don’t lose focus; it takes time, but there are agencies that can help!”
Located at the forks of the Black River in Northeast Ohio is the city of Elyria. I learned of a particular spot near downtown that is marked by layer upon layer of bridges, from a previous client of mine. The bridges formed a makeshift three story motel for some of the homeless in Elyria who consider themselves close neighbors. Many of the folks living here have been doing so for many, many years and the years were taking a toll on one of these men, especially, Ralph.
In September of 2014, I was driving toward this area and passed a couple of men. I parked my car up the road a bit and decided I wanted to talk to them. I noticed one of them was bleeding from a gash by his eye. He said, “You know this bridge you’re standing on right now? There are homeless people underneath your feet right now.” I asked, “You’re homeless?” He answered yes, and I began to tell him about the PATH Program and all of our services. He said that he was interested in becoming a client. After screening him and learning about the struggles that he had been going through, we began to talk about a plan to try and get him where he needed to be. He explained to me that he had been living under the bridge for many years and that he was sick of it. I could see on his face that he had been through a lot.
Thus began my relationship with Ralph. I learned Ralph has been struggling with homelessness on and off since shortly after his dramatic experience of discovering that his significant other had been unfaithful when he was 24 years old.
I knew Ralph also needed treatment for substance abuse; he admitted that he been abusing drugs and alcohol since early adulthood. At first, Ralph was very opposed to the idea, however, after many discussions, he slowly started to see treatment as a means to a good end. Eventually, he came to a point when he would say things like, “If you don’t get me into treatment soon, then I’m going to…” while making the gesture of a finger gun pointed at his head, indicating he really was committed to change. Ralph showed signs of dramatic and unpredictable mood swings, too, including bouts of deep, recurrent depression which became worse after his relationship ended when he was 24. Looking back, he said that he knew that he suffered with mental health problems since the age of 17 but never knew how to articulate his condition, especially using clinical language such as "bipolar disorder." He can understand better now that he is older and has been learning more and more about his condition.
Ralph never received treatment for this condition because he says that he was always taught to be tough. Essentially, he thought it would be a stigma for him to be labeled with having a problem. While he still struggles with being labeled and stigmatized, he knows he understands the importance of receiving ongoing treatment. He admits his mental health problems, and also a history of physical abuse at the hands of his father, caused him major problems, especially tension in interpersonal relationships. He would snap at people and act out towards them, and their reactions to him would trigger episodes of depression.
The first step was helping Ralph attain sobriety. On the way to the residential treatment facility, Ralph and I talked about how life would change for him. He mentioned that he wanted to get back into building bikes. It sounded like he was referring to it as a hobby but while he was still in treatment, I went to check up on him and was blown away when I saw a model motorcycle he had built at the treatment facility using scraps of cardboard, cotton swabs and other odds and ends. I learned, prior to becoming homeless, Ralph had worked in a steel plant for seven years and had experience running machines like tow motors and such at other jobs. His gift for building bikes was a source of peace and joy for him; he took pride in his work, and I could see that good craftsmanship meant a lot to him. It is definitely an asset for Ralph as he works on his recovery and helps him stay mentally engaged.
Currently, Ralph is at a sober living facility here in Elyria, and he is required to pay $300 per month for rent. He was able to sell one of his model bikes recently, and the money he earned covered one month’s rent! Ralph does odd jobs to help pay for the rent otherwise. He is very happy there and the staff reports consistently that he is doing excellent. Now he is in the process of connecting to a local mental health facility, which he has never done before in his life. This is definitely a step in the right direction for him because he has a lot of deep seated issues that need to be addressed, including dealing with the pain of his ended relationship and separation from his daughter. Talking with Ralph about his past helps one to see that he has suffered many traumatic experiences. It would seem that he used drugs and alcohol to self-medicate in order to try and kill the pain that afflicted him.
Ralph is working the program when it comes to recovery. He seems to make amends everyday with so many people around town. He cannot emphasize enough the gratitude he feels for the PATH Program “coming around and bugging him all the time,” encouraging him to stick with the plan. Ralph just turned 51 years of age, and he knows that he has plenty of time left in this world. As he moves forward, he wants to nurture a closer relationship with his family because, for a while now, there has been quite some distance between him and them.
As he moves forward, building bikes will remain a major part of his life and he hopes to build a life-sized, fully functional chopper in the near future. Whatever he decides to put his mind to, I believe he will accomplish it. As for now, he is rebuilding his life with great care and craftsmanship. He is full of passion. And he is surely on a good path. As the folks at the sober living facility alludes to time and time again, Ralph helps to keep the place on fire!
Today TK is a proud lease holder of his own apartment. Getting there was not easy as he has had to overcome numerous rejections from potential landlords. With each housing application came shame and embarrassment, dreading the criminal history questions and records check that will forever identify him as a registered sex offender. TK likens his status as being society’s modern day person with leprosy. He tells a story of rejection even from social service providers, which made accessing needed supports difficult to obtain. It felt impossible that TK would find stability in his life.
However, that began to change on a cold brisk spring morning in March 2014 when Larry Robinson, Outreach Technician with the PATH program at Neighborhood Properties, Inc., first met TK. TK was standing outside shivering from the cold temperature. Larry asked TK how he was doing and he responded, “I would be doing better if I had a place to live and did not have to stay here in the streets or in a homeless shelter.”
Larry continued the conversation with TK and told him he represented a program (PATH) that helps people who have mental health impairments and are homeless. Encoraged, TK said, “tell me more; I’m your guy.”
Larry completed the PATH interview and assessment with TK and enrolled him into the program. A mental health assessment was scheduled through a local community mental health services provider, which revealed TK had several mental health disorders that needed professional attention.
Larry expressed to TK that he had nothing to be ashamed of regarding his mental health condition, and suggested TK approach treatment services as a mental health maintenance plan. “Just as we provide maintenance to items we own, it’s important to use like care for one’s overall mental health”, suggested Larry. TK agreed and said he liked the way that sounded.
According to TK, rough living on the streets of Toledo, Ohio and his bout with incarceration made him less motivated to seek help for his mental health problems.
For TK, mental health wellness had not been of priority while being homeless. At times his poor mental health hygiene served as a shield of protection from the reality of living a marginal life of poverty, homelessness, substance abuse and being an ex-convict with a sex crime conviction.
After a history of more than five years of incarceration, six years of homelessness, and six years of non-engagement in mental health treatment, TK began getting the support he needed to rebuild his life once enrolled in PATH. Larry assisted him with transportation, appointment-scheduling and the completion of applications and enrollment forms. According to TK,the relationship he established with Larry set a firm foundation to build on and achieving:
1. mental health: he enrolled in treatment to treat his bipolar disorder with a community mental health treatment agency.
2. financial stability: he attained benefits from the Social Security Administration
3. non-cash benefits: he applied and was eligible for food stamps.
4. health care: he became a patient with Mildred Bayer that provides outpatient medical treatment to persons who are homeless.
5. health insurance: he successfully regained his Medicaid eligibility.
6. housing: he secured a one-bedroom apartment furnished by PATH start-up funds.
Signing his own lease was a goal TK thought he would never achieve. However, the support and diligence of PATH staff and community collaboration has left him a residual benefit of confidence. Shortly after lease signing, TK stated with confidence he wanted to set a new list of goals, which included the purchase of a car, which he parks outside his apartment.
“I am excited as hell and I can sleep in any room in my house that I choose! I don’t feel pathetic anymore,” TK shares with deep gratitude. “I am completely motivated to never become homeless again and stick with my mental health maintenance plan”.
The advice TK gives others in like situations is to keep the faith and hold out for better days to come.
D is a 24 year old male who had been homeless in Hamilton County off and on for the last six years. The Hamilton County PATH staff engaged him regularly during those 6 years but D struggled with resistance to treatment, frequent incarceration, substance abuse, managing benefits/money, and a limited support system. Due to outbursts, symptomatic behavior, and illegal activities D was not able to utilize Hamilton County shelters, forcing him to stay in abandoned buildings, parks, and in wooded areas.
Over the past six years, D had been connected to many services including mental health case management, substance abuse treatment, Medicaid, income benefits, medical/HIV treatment, and housing. However, D would not follow through with services and was in denial that he needed assistance from others. Eventually, D lost his apartment for not paying rent, dropped out of mental health services, refused medical treatment to manage his HIV, lost Medicaid and income benefits, continued to abuse drugs, with crack being his drug of choice, and had frequent incarcerations relating to drugs, theft, and violence.
Throughout the years, the Hamilton County PATH Team continued to support D and was consistent with referrals and linking to appropriate services. In July 2013, D decided that he did not want to live on the streets anymore and was willing to let people into his life to help guide him towards his goals. That month D connected with the Homeless ACT Case Management Team with Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services. For the next year, D continued to use drugs and have frequent contact with law enforcement. However, he was consistent with his mental health treatment on the ACT Team and was able to get his medical and income benefits restarted. In May 2014, D turned himself in to law enforcement for his outstanding warrants and cleared his record. D had a difficult time finding housing that would rent to him due to his history. Therefore, in October 2014, D agreed to move into a shelter that houses chronically homeless individuals living with HIV. Two months later, D moved into his own apartment, where he still lives today. He is sober, free from legal issues, stable on medication, connected medically for HIV treatment, and successfully paying his own bills. He continues to receive mental health case management services with Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services and is proud to have graduated from ACT services to traditional case management services within the agency.
D is grateful to those who didn’t give up on him and recently visited to the Hamilton County PATH office to say hello and assure the staff that he will not give up on himself. He says he is enjoying life and is too young to miss out on what the future will hold.
S became homeless in October of 2013, and found herself without the support of her daughters. She was struggling with behavioral health problems, while a resident of a shelter, Gateway for Women and Families in Dayton, Ohio.
PATH Outreach Specialist, Derricka Holt, met the client when the S’s behaviors escalated to a point that the she was being asked to leave the emergency shelter permanently. Although S was not allowed to access the emergency shelter, following behavior infractions in January, 2014, PATH continued services to her. Derricka began working with S to set goals that could be achieved while she was homeless, such as, completing a housing assessment and referrals to the Permanent Supportive Housing waiting list. PATH helped her obtain her Ohio Identification and birth certificate. PATH also assisted her in applying for Social Security Disability Benefits and Medicaid and referred her to a community behavioral health agency, Eastway Behavioral Healthcare. Derricka reminded S of her appointments, provided transportation, accompanied her to appointments and explained the behavioral health service plan.
S said that it meant a lot to her that Derricka helped her at that time. “If it wasn’t for PATH, I don’t know where I’d be,” S said. S described Derricka as a good person; one who helped her no matter what she was going through, without ever looking down on her. S said she wished there were more Derricka’s in the world.
S explained that her situation when she was homeless was very tragic. S said she often slept out in the cold, argued with her daughters, was not allowed to spend time with her grandchildren and struggled with mental health problems. S said that “I was forgetful and confused. I was angry at people.”
S said she knew her mental health was poor. She explained that she argued bitterly with her daughters for a couple of years, before she sought help from PATH and the community behavioral health agencies. She said, “I had to step back, so I could be Grandma.”
S believes that stepping back was part of breaking the pattern of being angry and confused most of the time. She realizes now that “I did things I didn’t realize I had done until much later.”
In April of 2014, many things began to change for the better for S. She received her Social Security Disability Benefits and moved to her apartment at River Commons, an apartment complex operated by Miami Valley Housing Opportunities. S said she loves her apartment and described it as peaceful and quiet. “I feel safe here, I thank God for my housing,” she said. There are books and toys in her apartment that her grandchildren play with when they visit with her. When speaking of her grandchildren, S lights up and talks about how her daughters trust her to babysit her grandchildren two to three nights per week, including family movie nights.
Now feeling better about herself and her relationships with her daughters and grandchildren, S talks about the past and, “missing appointments and losing important things,” as something she continues to move away from steadily. She said, “I am doing good now. I am fun to be around.” She said she writes everything down, keeps a calendar and tries to keep organized.
S has many supportive people in her life now, because PATH made sure her plan for transitioning to housing was filled with providers that would continue to assist once PATH exited. S has a behavioral health case manager, a psychiatrist that she sees monthly and a housing-focused case manager at the apartment building where she lives. All providers work collaboratively with her. One goal she is attempting to achieve now is to become employed. “I want to go back to work and they are helping me get ready,” she said. She is also working on getting her driver’s license.
S enjoys a great relationship with her psychiatrist, which she describes as very important to her. S said she likes her psychiatrist because she listens and helps her work through issues with side-effects.
Besides taking care of her own appointments, S helps a friend of hers who is blind, shopping and cooking and reading her mail to her. S also goes to New Commandment Church every week. She said “I am in a good place right now. One day, I hope I don’t have to depend on medication, but for now, it is best to stick to the medication.” S said she knows life can be better and that it will get there, where “I can enjoy the rest of my life.”
C, age 44, reports that his story begins one very cold January night in 2012. He was living in a local parking garage stairwell attached to the government services buildings in downtown Hamilton. He had been staying there since September 2011. This is when he met Officer Matt who works for the Hamilton Police Department. C was curled up in his “home." “Home” was the upper most floor of the parking garage where generally no one parks. During third shift, the officer and his partner, were on routine patrol and came across C. C thought that he was going to be asked to leave instead was shocked that all the officers did was to make sure that he was OK. After talking with him for a very short period of time the officers left so that C could go to sleep.
C reports that the next morning he woke up to Officer Matt, now off shift, carrying a meal from McDonalds, a gift card for food, hat, gloves, and various other items that could make him more comfortable. Officer Matt had made some phone calls to the PATH staff during the night. Officer Matt talked with C about the PATH program and the help that he could get if he was interested in meeting with the PATH staff. C was ready to change his current situation and agreed to meet with PATH staff.
When meeting with the PATH staff he talked about being homeless this time due to his losing another relationship and job due to his gambling addiction and depression. He reports he was never a drinker or substance abuser but was addicted to the thrill of the win. Gambling was his addiction that began in his mid to late 20s. It started with going to lunch with a co worker at a place that would accept bets on video horse racing. He quickly became addicted to being able to make “$10 into $50 in about 30 minutes.” When he was winning, everything was good. When he was losing he would become depressed. He saw his gambling as a way to fill a void. His would gamble away of his paychecks in a matter of hours upon receiving them. The gambling began to fill the voids in his relationships. When he would start a new relationship he would not gamble, he was satisfied with the relationship and that would be his focus. Then the newness would wear off he would start to gamble again.
The relationships would come and go throughout his life but his constant companion was his gambling. He became homeless and jobless several times throughout the years. He “lost every apartment and destroyed his kids’ lives.” When he was working he would become easily aggravated to the point that he would just walk off the job. He continued this cycle of having a job and a relationship, starting to gamble, losing the job, losing the relationship then experiencing depression and increased substance abuse. This was his life until that one night in a parking garage, meeting an officer who knew about the PATH program and made a referral.
C worked with the PATH staff as he began the steps to his current and continued recovery. He was assessed and was opened with case management. He was then transitioned from PATH to the mainstream mental health system. He worked with pharmacological management for medications to manage his symptoms. He worked with therapy services that included individual and groups to learn more about himself and his depression. He participated in the residential treatment program which continued to help him learn how to live with his depression. He gained an understanding of his diagnosis, took the medications as prescribed, and then moved out to his own apartment in the community.
Since that first meeting with the PATH staff and the move over to mainstream services, he is three years into his recovery and has remained living in his own apartment, after more than two decades cycling in and out of homelessness and battling untreated depression. While he admits that his depression is still part of his daily life, he knows it does not run his life. He started writing and blogging in the fall of 2013. He then gained a network of digital friends who support not only him but his writings. His stories are not only published online, he has had 6 of his stories printed in various magazines. He also gained enough confidence to return to work. He maintains his social security disability but works a part time flex job at a local warehouse. He continues not only to take his medications as prescribed and works with his case manager and therapist on a regular basis. He states that he is still working on accepting his past and the guilt he feels.
C is starting to rebuild his relationship with his now-adult child. He continues to communicate through email with Officer Matt, who periodically sends him words of encouragement and reminds him that he is never alone.
C urges others in a similar situation to persevere. While suicide was an ever present thought for him, he was glad he never attempted it. “Don’t give up hope on not only yourself but on humanity,” C exhorts. “When someone steps up and shows others they care, then you start to care about yourself”.
Community Support Services’ Homeless Outreach Team first met E at the state hospital following an involuntary hospitalization for tactile hallucinations and bizarre behavior. Even after a month of being medicated, his thoughts and speech were still so disorganized it was very difficult to get any reliable history at all. The issue was further compounded by the fact that his signature changed over the course of treatment, so the team wasn’t even sure of his actual name. His "I.D." consisted of a food card from California, a shelter identification card from Alabama, and random paperwork from Idaho that he had collected from his 10+ years traveling all over the country.
The PATH workers were eventually able to establish rapport with E, confirm his identity, and transition him from the hospital to a CSS residential group home. As his thinking began to clear, he began to actively participate in groups and was linked with a SOAR specialist to apply for SSI. Eventually he was awarded all of his entitlements and was put on a list for the Commons at Madeline Park, a permanent supportive housing building that was just nearing completion.
E was among the first residents to move into the Commons on the day construction was completed. This was the very first apartment he had ever had in his 48 years. The PATH treatment team and the housing staff worked with him to ensure he had the skills he needed to keep his apartment. As his symptoms continued to diminish, he became more insightful and got more and more engaged in the therapeutic groups he was attending. He eventually decided to enroll in a very intensive nine month cognitive enhancement therapy group that he eventually graduated from.
Today E is active in his own treatment, manages his medications, and is socially active within his housing community. He has reconnected with his family in Texas, many of whom he hasn’t seen in nearly a decade and is planning on visiting them this summer. He is able to manage his own appointments, can navigate public transportation effectively, no longer requires intensive services, and is enjoying a level of freedom and a quality of life he was never able to maintain before.
J is a 52 year old man who has been chronically homeless for the last four years, sleeping in a tent at various campgrounds throughout Columbiana County. J has numerous chronic health conditions, including major depression, alcoholism, and severe back and joint pain.
Because the Columbiana County PATH Program has high visibility in the community with organizations serve homeless people, the PATH program was contacted by a friend of J who was concerned about him surviving in frigid conditions without any source of heat. The PATH worker and PATH volunteer, a formerly homeless person with serious mental illness, arrived at a local campground only to find J’s tent deserted. The PATH outreach worker contacted J’s family and friends to inquire about his whereabouts and was informed that J was being harassed by other individuals at the campground and felt he had no choice but to leave.
According to his family, J was frightened to meet with PATH outreach workers and felt as though there would be nothing we could do to change the life he had created for himself. For the next several months, PATH outreach workers continued to search for J at other campsites in the county, but with no success. The PATH team finally received a call from J’s sister stating that she had found J sleeping in a tent in the backyard of a local farm. She stated that J’s health had deteriorated. She described him as severely depressed, not sleeping and in chronic pain with swollen hands. PATH workers and volunteers arrived at the campsite and spent hours talking with J, offering support and reassurance that life for J could in fact change and that treatment and resources were available. J agreed to temporary placement at the Kendall Home shelter where linkage to treatment and support services could begin.
During the next 30 days, with the assistance of the PATH program, J achieved the following:
· Participation in mental health and drug/alcohol services
· Treatment for physical health conditions through the Community Action Agency Health Center
· Services through the Supported Employment Program, which is currently assisting J in obtaining a job in the construction field
· J has achieved 90 days of sobriety
· Enrollment in Medicaid and food stamps
· Assistance in applying for SSI
· J secured permanent housing within 30 days of being enrolled in PATH services.
J notes, “This program saved my life. I never thought this was possible; I love my apartment and I have never been happier. I’m a survivor and I would be dead today if it weren’t for their help.”
J continues to maintain his apartment and participate in treatment with his case manager, psychiatrist, supported employment program, and drug/alcohol support services. J is moving forward in his recovery and has begun to feel connected to the community in which he lives.
I visited J last week in his apartment and he couldn’t have been more proud to show me how well kept it and how beautifully decorated it was. The smile on J’s face told the whole story of the PATH Program’s success in making positive changes to the lives of those we serve.
The first time I met L, she was sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of her condemned family home. It was the house she grew up in; left behind as one by one, her siblings moved away and her parents died. When she was in her early 20’s, L was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. With little understanding of her illness, L’s family did not provide her with the supports needed for a person with a severe mental illness to lead a functional life. Without psychiatric treatment, L’s symptoms grew worse as she grew older, and her family began to avoid her. After her father, who was her only support system, died; L remained in the house until the utilities were turned off and the house was foreclosed on. With no idea how to care for herself, and her psychosis becoming more debilitating each day, L was severally deteriorated by the time anyone intervened.
I outreached L with another PATH worker after our team at Frontline Service received a call from a local councilmember. She had been found by the crew that came to board up her home, living on the front porch--family portraits and a mildewed recliner moved out from the interior of the house; which had been destroyed by scrappers pulling up floor boards and cabinets to get to the valuable copper pipes underneath. She told me she had been surviving on food that the neighbors left for her; and though the plumbing in the house was long gone, still used the non-functional bathroom.
L was disorganized, delusional, and grandiose; but she was also incredibly friendly. She reacted to the outreach team as though we were old friends who she hadn’t seen in years, inviting us to “come over any time” to check on her. She initially refused my offer to drive her to the shelter since she was living in a condemned house, stating she had been to the shelter before and didn’t like it. The following day I received a call from her neighbors requesting help with L; who they said was swinging a hammer around in a threatening manner, agitated and internally stimulated. When I arrived, L was as friendly and jovial as ever—although admitted she had been swinging a hammer around on her porch. She agreed to check herself into the hospital for psychiatric stabilization, and when she was discharged a week later moved to the shelter without complaint.
The PATH team assisted L in obtaining the ID documents needed to apply for housing, and saw her through the application process. She joined the agency’s payee program to receive help with budgeting, and our benefits liaison helped her manage her Medicaid and food stamps. L struggled to control her labile mood while in the shelter, which at times led to physical and verbal altercations. The stress of the shelter environment made psychiatric stability difficult, but she continued to engage in treatment and attend appointments for housing. Eventually L was offered her own apartment in a Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) building.
Once living in the PSH building, L made friends with the other residents and eventually grew to think of them as family. She worked on healthy living habits and building social skills. A few years later, L had become so stable she was given a voucher for her own independent apartment in the community. She now lives on her own, but frequently visits her “family” at the PSH. She is now living a full, happy, and fruitful life.
“If you are serious about making a change, and determined, do everything and then some. Don’t procrastinate.”
Those are the words of L, a PATH client of ICAN Housing. Despite her mental illness and a life filled with trauma L is working hard on her recovery.
L’s connection with ICAN Housing started after she came to Ohio from Colorado to meet her father for the first time as an adult. She traveled here with her daughter and stayed with her father upon arriving. After witnessing her father’s lifestyle, L chose to send her daughter back to Colorado with the small amount of money she had left.
L remained here and struggled with her father’s lifestyle because of his habitual drug use. This led to a falling out and L slept behind a church for a few nights. A family member recommended ICAN, specifically Kathy. She decided to see how we couL assist her.
L arrived at ICAN hungry and in desperate need of shelter. She admits it was extremely hard for her to ask for help even in her vulnerable situation. We were able to provide her with a little food and connections to resources. After conducting an intake PATH staff referred her for a diagnostic assessment. L obtained one the same day she was referred. This immediate connection enabled her to complete an application for our housing programs and she quickly got on a wait list for housing. ICAN was also able to connect her with emergency shelter at the local YWCA. Residing in the shelter was difficult for her but after just a little over a month ICAN Housing couL offer her a spot in our agency’s Rapid Rehousing program. L has been in her own apartment for 5 months.
L reports having a mental health history and a life full of trials and tribulations. She states she built up her life 4 times and it has fallen apart each time.
L has lost a lot people from death, including her own sister at the age of nine; L's severe anxiety started then. Her other family relationships are troublesome. She describes the relationship with her other sister growing up as torturous and to date she does not wish to have contact with her mother. L has a positive relationship with her stepfather and views him as more of a father than her biological father.
L says her past behavioral health provider taught her coping skills. She admits she has often refused medication. L says she is reclusive because she feels the need to protect her life. Her anxiety makes her feel like she is going to have a heart attack. She states the hardest parts about her anxiety are going into stores and that it interferes with getting a job.
L says she has been blessed through ICAN Housing. When we asked her what is the best thing that has happened she says it is having her own place with a roof over her head. L is now able to focus on goals, instead of simply trying to meet her immediate needs. Currently, L is diligently searching for employment.
Outreach workers first encountered C in May 2010 outside the local homeless shelter. She’d been staying there off and on. She’d also stay in empty houses, often with other individuals. The initial encounter was productive though C was naturally guarded.
At subsequent encounters C reported she’d been in jail and was on probation. She has a severe and persistent mental illness which she often treated by self-medicating with street drugs or prescription medication if she could obtain it. Previously community mental health centers provided treatment to her but she refused to keep appointments or follow the treatment plan. At the time of the initial contact C was not an open case with any mental health agency. In addition she had several health issues including epilepsy.
Over the next several months outreach staff met with C frequently, often encountering her several times a week on the street, at the soup kitchen, in the shelter or outside of empty buildings. These were the common places to look for her. Staff talked with her about getting off the streets, seeking treatment for her mental health issues and alcohol/drug use. Occasionally she’d go to Help Hotline’s Community Center.
Over time C listened to the staff about going to treatment. About five months after initially meeting her, the outreach staff were able to talk her into going for AOD treatment. Staff talked about how the weather was changing and life on the streets was becoming more difficult. C agreed it was getting more difficult. A 90 day program was contacted who agreed to take her. Still feeling ambivalent C was given a two week assessment at the 90 day treatment program. If things wouldn’t work out she’d be back on the streets.
C completed the treatment program despite some setbacks. These were overcome through the assistance of treatment and outreach staff. She was referred into transitional mental health housing program by the treatment staff where she stayed for several months. C left there for several reasons. She got her own apartment.
Currently C has been in an apartment for almost two years. She remains in mental health treatment and has continued to make better choices. Outreach staff only see her when she goes to the community center to be part of the activities there.
Meet M – a 59 year-old Painesville native with quite a story to tell. M’s journey to the person she has become today was not an easy one.
M’s depression surfaced during her teens and she was diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder in her senior year of college. She began to self-medicate with alcohol. During her senior year of college, she was diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder.
When she was 47, she began to use drugs and gamble. Her gambling problem drained her of money and she began to steal from her employer. She was arrested and convicted, and spent the next ten months in prison.
On her release, M had nothing – no money, no home, no family. She moved into a halfway house, and then ended up living in a tent. After living outside for six weeks, she was referred to a transitional housing program and then a supportive housing community for people with a serious mental illness operated by Extended Housing, an agency in the Lake County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board network of providers.
Today, M is a college graduate who is two credits and an internship away from getting her master’s degree in forensic psychology. She enjoys giving back by serving on the Lake County PATH team’s Homeless Advisory Council, whose mission is to improve outreach and referral services to Lake County’s homeless population.
When asked what being a part of the Homeless Advisory Council has meant to her, here’s how she replied:
“Being on the Homeless Outreach Committee has provided me with opportunities to grow and change for the better. It has enabled me to establish contacts with various organizations, for example, local churches and businesses, to help people who are homeless. It has taught me responsibility; when I make a commitment, whether to a monthly meeting, bake sale or cookout, I have learned to show up, as promised. It has given me an opportunity to give back to my community which has given so much to me during times I have needed it. It has kept me in touch with my past and given me a chance to be of service to those less fortunate than I and help them better their lives as I was blessed to be able to better mine. It has provided me with hope that someday homelessness will be a thing of the past.”
H, 52, grew up in Columbus with his parents and one sister. He was bullied a lot in school and had a learning disability which created an environment difficult for him to stick up for himself. And on his 18th birthday, his father died.
What was even more traumatic for him was the death of his mother with whom he resided for much of adult years due to mental health and learning disabilities. In addition to the emotional connection, she had provided a safe living environment and consistently met all of his needs.
As the years passed, H’s mental health began to deteriorate and depressive symptoms and mood instability became constant, resulting in his drug and alcohol use and intermittent homelessness. H and his sister have always had a good relationship. However, during the years when his mental illness was most pervasive, she was unable to provide housing or financial support for him.
After three consecutive years of living on the streets, PATH team was able to connect with him through Mobile Van and Outreach. Case manager Mike Hauger, was one of the first to work with him, build good rapport, get him first into emergency shelter and then permanent housing, where is resides today. Because Southeast provides integrated care, H was able to get connected to Primary Care more quickly than perhaps in other situations. He was able to smoothly transition through our treatment teams at Southeast. For example, he began with PATH/Mobile Van, then went to Dream Team (an ongoing treatment team) and then a less intensive team, the Recovery Team.
H’s SMD diagnosis has created great difficulty for him obtaining and maintaining work. Although he does not currently have a job, the PATH team was able to get him on SSI for SMD Experiences Mike shares that despite H’s limitations with mental illness and learning disability (possibly a result of a traumatic brain injury as a child), he has more resiliency and resourcefulness than a lot of clients with whom Mike has been involved. His psychotropic medications and case management have allowed H to maintain the housing and services and entitlements put in place by PATH and have allowed him to feel happy and become interested in volunteering his time to assist others. Mike Hauger, describes H as a huge inspiration for others in similar situations who are dealing with wait lists and a is generally just great a human being.
When asked for a piece of advice for others who are struggling with homelessness, H said, “stay in the long term system”, meaning stay involved with your case manager and keep pushing through the waiting lists.
With a mission of ending homelessness and promoting affordable housing, the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) is involved in a range of housing assistance services in Ohio, including homeless prevention, emergency shelters, transitional housing and permanent affordable housing with linkages to supportive services. COHHIO assists hundreds of housing organizations and homeless service providers in Ohio through public policy advocacy, training and technical assistance, research and public education.
All Ohioans need and deserve decent, safe and sanitary housing. Regrettably, a significant number of Ohioans are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless because of the escalating costs of basic needs including healthcare and energy expenses. Representatives from OhioMHAS are working with 15 other state agencies and eight community advocacy groups on the Interagency Council on Homelessness and Affordable Housing to shape policies and programs that address the housing needs of those Ohioans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.