The Mental Health Association is Restoring Hope for the Homeless

Steve Adubato talks with Robert Davison and Michele Walsh from the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris County to discuss the ways they are helping homeless individuals find hope and support.

8/15/17 #2067






"We are pleased to be joined by Robert Davison, who is CEO of Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris County, and also Michele Walsh, Program Director, Mental Health Association of Essex County's PATH program, which stands for? Projects for Assistance and Transition from Homelessness. Let's talk about this. You're primarily concerned about people who are dealing with homelessness, right? What's the connection between homelessness and mental health issues? Talk about it. Yeah, I think we can find that most people that are suffering from homelessness, specifically chronic homelessness, which means someone has been homeless for a year or more and they have a disability, that disability is normally mental illness. So we're talking about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, the major mental illnesses. Hmm. And so it's not as much that the homelessness came first, maybe the mental illness came first and was untreated and through years of going through the system and maybe the system failing them, they then become homeless and then chronically homeless. How does this program help people? The PATH program? It houses people. It starts with going out to meet the people where they are, looking them in the eye, asking them how they're doing, building a relationship, and housing them. Just from November 30th of last year, Michele and her team have managed to house 30 people. 30 individuals with severe and persistent mental illness that have been homeless for more than a year. Where do you find them? Everywhere. Be specific. I think the thing I found most since November, since the PATH program started, is that we're finding a lot of people in the township of Montclair. My home town? Our home town? Seriously? Absolutely. Definitely. Where? And we're talking about people that grew up in Montclair. Maybe they have a substance abuse problem and they're not talking with their family and so they lost that housing opportunity or maybe they have severe and persistent mental illness and their family may not understand that mental illness and be able to support them any more. Steve, we've been out and engaged people everywhere from along the riverbanks of the Passaic River in Fairfield to the riverbanks of the Passaic River in Newark and everywhere in between. So it's not just an urban issue. How responsive are... and again, everyone has their own situation but you were also at Penn Station, spent some time in Penn Station, right? Mm hmm. Working there. And there are a lot of folks, those of us that travel through Penn Station, we know there are people who are dealing with homelessness. By and large, how responsive are people to coming in and getting help, accepting help? Yeah. I think, especially when I went..."