by Wilma Norton in Foundation News,Giving
On-site counselor for the homeless ‘saving lives’
A year ago, Directions for Living joined with Pinellas Hope and the Homeless Empowerment Program to apply for the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay's first Big Idea Grant. "Our big idea was to be able to bring mental health services directly to those with unstable housing," said April Lott, executive director of Directions for Living.
The $50,000 grant allowed Directions to hire a licensed clinical social worker who works at facilities where the homeless are living. "It's doing exactly what we thought it would do," Lott said. "She is working with the residents to solve and resolve their trauma histories."
A resident can see the on-site counselor when he or she needs help without having to take a long bus ride to the counseling facility, Lott said. "It is growing exponentially, and it is probably the best $50,000 we've ever spent," she said.
On a recent site visit, a resident of Pinellas Hope said having an on-site counselor that he could talk to when he felt anxious, angry or hopeless had made an enormous difference. Before coming to Pinellas Hope, he had struggled with instability in his life and addiction. At the time of the visit, he had been sober for months and was about to start a new job. "To have somebody to go to, to talk to, is wonderful," he said.
"I know I need help. I'm not ashamed," he said. "They give you a chance to work on yourself. If I get discouraged, I go see the counselor and she teaches me alternatives to calm myself down and get out of my head. …I can look at myself in the mirror now and like what I see."
(To protect the residents' privacy, no names or photos of residents are being shared.)