We are a Family: Jacob’s House

Jacob’s House is situated on a tree-lined street in Oak Cliff. From the outside it looks like the other older homes in the neighborhood, with a large porch and a fenced front yard. On pleasant days, several men gather outside to “shoot the breeze,” play card games or wave at passersby. There is a comfortableness among them—a sense that they are at home. And they are.

However, for most of the seven who live at The Well Community’s boarding home for men, Jacob’s house has become home only after years of living on the street or in a series of substandard boarding houses.

One resident finally has a bed to call his own after 13 years of homelessness. At Jacob’s house he not only has a safe home, but benefits from living in an accepting community where everyone understands what it’s like to struggle with mental health challenges. He and the six other men at Jacob’s House enjoy regular, nutritious meals and are able to come alongside one another as they pursue stability. And, when they’re struggling, they can reach out to each other and to The Well’s staff to help them overcome hurdles.

“This is our home,” says one resident who battles schizoaffective disorder, a mental illness that has features of both schizophrenia and a mood irregularity. “We are free to be ourselves here.”

“I am very grateful,” says another resident who previously lived in an apartment with an abusive landlady. “It has indeed been a blessing.”

Jacob’s House was founded as a boarding home by The Well in 2007 because the staff recognized how challenging it was for its members to find safe, decent and affordable housing. Those who struggle with mental illnesses are often easily manipulated and cannot handle household responsibilities in addition to managing their mental health. The house is licensed by the City of Dallas and offers a safe haven where up to eight men share meals, friendship and encouragement.

Alice Zaccarello, executive director of The Well Community and supervisor of Jacob’s House, organizes house meetings, manages interviews with potential residents and maintains the daily ins and outs of the house. According to Zaccarello, one of the most important benefits Jacob’s House provides its residents is fostering a community of shared living while offering the autonomy of independence. “The lives of the people we help are so fragile,” she says. “What’s important to me is that they establish relationships with me, the staff and each other that are emotionally safe and meaningful.”

“These men are my brothers. We are a family,” says one resident. During the pandemic they are grateful to have each other for company. Together they watch movies, play games and share meals, all while supporting one another through the daily highs and lows of COVID life.

Jacob’s House is able to be a place where men like these find a home and a family thanks to the many people who partner with The Well. From those who provide meals cooked with love to the volunteers who help with maintenance to the many who faithfully give, we’re grateful for each one!