Over half of the people living without shelter on our streets have some form of mental illness. Rick’s story illustrates how People Incorporated’s “spectrum of services” can help a homeless person with mental illness gradually move off the street and into independent living.
Rick laughs when he thinks about being mistaken for a state senator when he was at the Capitol last fall, giving testimony in support of People Incorporated’s homeless services. “It was kind of a long way from my hut in the woods!”
Rick’s is a typical story for someone with mental illness. Self-medication with drugs and alcohol ultimately led to homelessness—in Rick’s case a little hut in a wooded copse in the heart of St. Paul. “The city threw me off the lot, and that’s when Kate, the People Incorporated outreach worker, got me to go to Ramsey House. I wasn’t too sure at first. I liked to be in control, and I’d already kicked my alcohol and drug issues on my own and didn’t want to be in a shelter with all that around me. So I thought I’d better go.
“Everyone at Ramsey House treated me so well. First I got medication for my depression, and then they arranged appointments for me with heart and lung doctors. I stayed at Ramsey House for 13 months, trying to recover. People Incorporated helped me get to all my appointments and covered the co-pays. I also went to classes about mental illness and learned how to monitor my symptoms and know when to get help.
“They’ve helped me get my own apartment—it’s so great to be far, far away from people with drug and alcohol issues. People Incorporated still checks in every couple of weeks. Dawn helps me get to appointments, goes over bills, stuff like that, and they even helped find funds to cover the costs of getting dentures! I didn’t realize it before, but People Incorporated helped me take little granny steps the whole time, and look at me now. That’s why I was so glad to go to the Capitol to support Safe Haven Services. I know I would be dead by now if People Incorporated hadn’t helped me make a new start.”