Member Spotlight: Poverty and Mental Illness

Philipe* is a charter member of the Well Community. That means for over 20 years he has found a welcoming place to belong, despite grappling with overwhelming challenges of living with several mental health conditions. He represents the majority of Well members: male (75%) and Hispanic (43%), and like many others, he is now in his 60s. He has been navigating mental illness since he was in his 20s. (Three-fourths of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 24**.)

Disabled by chronic mental health issues, Philipe has no income. Unable to work, he has no health care and no place to live. Family had to step away long ago from his insurmountable challenges and are no longer available to help. At least half of Well members live likewise.

One would think Philipe would qualify for government social services and SNAP (food stamps). And yes, he does. But to apply for those, he needs documentation such as a government-issued ID and/or social security number. To get those, he needs a birth certificate, which, despite multiple efforts by many people, cannot be located.

And so, Philipe depends on the Well as his only source of food, clothes, personal care products and the use of toilet facilities. He lives on the streets and has no easy access to clothes washers, showers or, when the Well is not open, restrooms. Sometimes, acutely aware of his inability to attend to hygiene needs, he sits alone in a side room at the Well’s Community Life Center. As for clothes, he’ll wear the same for a few weeks, then request a new set from our Resource Center and pitch the old.

Philipe is going blind. His inability to see well adds frustration to the always-present anxieties of day-to-day life. Often, it’s all just too much, and his already vulnerable emotions boil over into angry tirades. Because of such behavior, Philipe has been banned from other groups and services.

Staff, volunteers and members of the Well Community do all they can to help Philipe, and he is grateful. He’s often said, “This is my home. These are my people. At the Well I am understood, helped and accepted.”

Your financial support of the Well Community helps those with nowhere else to turn find friendship, care and a place to belong. Give now.

* pseudonym

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