It’s a bit shocking when you think about it. In a 2021 research project* about individuals living in homelessness, 33 percent of all respondents self-identified as having mental health issues.
That means about one out of three homeless people are living each day not only with the challenges of poverty and insecure housing, but also with mental illnesses. What incredible obstacles they face! It can be nearly impossible to know where to turn for help and how to access that help. We want to change that.
Mental health disorders among the homeless often prevent them from having jobs, enjoying community and maintaining hope.
In response to these difficult situations, The Well Community has started an outreach program to 1) identify homeless people in the community and at encampments in the southern sector of Dallas; 2) build relationships with our homeless neighbors and 3) offer compassion, water, snacks and referrals to local services. For those who indicate a mental health condition, we also invite them to The Well and assist them in accessing mental health clinics in the area.
Through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs CSG Cares Grant, we have hired an Outreach Manager and an Outreach Coordinator to locate and serve homeless adults through our new program. Anita Green, Outreach Manager, recognizes that literacy is often a barrier in helping people find out about resources, so having face-to-face (with mask) conversations not only brings human contact, but also facilitates understanding of how to get help.
“I want to meet people where they are and build rapport,” Anita tells me. “When they are ready for help, we are ready to assist.” And it’s working. We’ve had a number of new people come to The Well for meals and many have sought out mental health clinical services with our assistance.
As they visit The Well, many have found new friends and are beginning to experience true community for the first time. Nearly all of our members have been homeless at times in their lives, and some still are. They understand the challenges, the isolation, the stigma and are able to encourage the newcomers.
It’s our desire and hope that over time, more of those who have no place to live will find a place to belong at The Well.
P.S. To read more about homeless and mental illness, click here.
* 2021 Annual Point in Time Count survey of the homeless conducted by Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance each February in Dallas and Collin Counties.