B. had been a familiar face in the Richmond shelter system for years. Diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder and dependent on alcohol and other drugs in his attempt to self-medicate his mental illness, B. was hard to keep track of, hard to place in a shelter, and an almost impossible candidate for appropriate permanent housing.
But his luck was about to change. In September 2006, when B. showed up at Central Intake once again and was admitted to CARITAS, his case manager was part of a new team consisting of staff persons from several agencies that serve the homeless and focus on serving individuals who had been homeless for a significant period of time and had barriers to most services in the community.
The Community Service Team worked through B’s challenges of paranoia, lack of trust in anyone, and tendency to disappear. For the first time in 4 years, he received and stayed on medication for his mental illness through the Daily Planet Mental Health Clinic. He began seeing a therapist for counseling. He also saw a substance abuse counselor and entered recovery for substance abuse.
The CARITAS case manager helped him acquire disability benefits, an ID card, a social security card, a birth certificate, and health care through MCV. She also referred him to Enhancing Lives Ministries, which helped him manage his money and save for future permanent housing.
But finding appropriate permanent housing was B’s greatest need and greatest challenge. He was not eligible or capable of thriving in most transitional housing situations.
Again, B’s luck was about to change. His CARITAS case manager had heard of a new housing program called A Place to Start, designed to give a permanent home to adults with histories of significant mental illness and chronic homelessness. B. entered the program in January of 2008. He would get the continual professional and peer support he needed, and after 17 years of homelessness, found a permanent and supportive place to rest his head and call home.