“Home” Matters More Than You May Think To Those With Mental Illness
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Fairweather: Stories of “Home” & The Power of Belonging
When Christian S. arrived at the Fairweather Family Lodge, it was a last resort.
Child Protective Services was involved with her children, and she was in drug court due to addiction. She had no bank account, a low credit score, a broken lease, six traffic warrants, owed money to the city, had defaulted on loans, and to top it off, her rampant depression made it difficult to cope.
Glen O’Malley found himself in a similar situation. Schizophrenia and depression had made life unbearable, and vivid nightmares had him questioning reality. Sometimes, he would literally flee his own home.
“I was in very bad shape,” said Glen. “I lived in a world of hallucinations, depression, and anxiety. I would hear voices. I would look out my peep-hole and actually see and hear people talking, which made me afraid to go outside the apartment. I couldn’t rest or sleep for weeks at a time.”
Though they carry similar monikers, The Fairweather Lodge and Fairweather Family Lodge are actually two separate programs built to create a safe space for their individual demographics: The Lodge is more permanent housing for single adults with mental illnesses, and the Family Lodge provides temporary housing (most residents stay 18 months with their children) for chronically homeless women and their children.
A New Start
Fast forward to today.
After entering into Endeavors’ housing program at the Fairweather Family Lodge, Christian was able to pay off all her debt, open a new bank account, repair her credit score, pay back her loans, and re-bond with her children.
Glen also found community, support, and employment at the Fairweather Lodge, a phenomenon that seemed impossible before.
“I’m presently a crew-leader on one of our janitorial crews,” said Glen. “I’ve made employee of the month two times and to top that off, I made Janitorial employee of the year in 2004. Can you believe that?”
A Sense of Belonging + Community
Besides the obvious answer of “physical shelter,” we believe that the Fairweather environment offers something that speaks to a fundamental human need: the desire for belonging and communion.
“Here at Fairweather, you are treated like a person and not by your illness,” said Glen. By treating each person that we encounter with warmth and love, the Fairweather lodges hope to reawaken a sense of worth and dignity in the incredible humans they serve.
“A sense of belonging to a greater community improves your motivation, health, and happiness,” says psychologist Karyn Hall. “When you see your connection to others, you know that all people struggle and have difficult times. You are not alone.”
Christian’s story is proof. She says that this sense of connection made all the difference. By meeting other moms and children who had survived a situation like hers, she was able to see the road to improvement and envision the life she wanted.
“I have friendships that I didn’t know I needed and will keep all my life,” she says.
Hope For Tomorrow
In her book “Braving the Wilderness,” psychologist and researcher Brene Brown explains that belonging changes everything. “Never underestimate the power of being seen,” she says. “It’s exhausting to keep working against yourself when someone truly sees you and loves you.”
Glen saw that change within a year. “Since I came into the program, I have made a complete turnaround,” he said. “The clients and staff were so nice to me. I finally felt I was somebody with a support system and as long as I stayed in the program, that I’d never be alone.”
He explained that the staff at Fairweather are some of the most professional and caring people he knows.
“If I have a problem or concern, they are always there for me,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that if it wasn’t for Fairweather, there’s no telling where I’d be.”
About the Fairweather Programs
Established in 1977, the Fairweather Lodge is Endeavors®’ longest-running program with a goal of providing permanent supportive housing to individuals and families with mental illness, disabilities, as well as female Veterans.
The Fairweather Family Lodge provides supportive housing for chronically homeless women in San Antonio with disabilities and their children in an apartment-style campus. Both provide case management, professional counseling, life skills training, and employment opportunities for these residents so that they can achieve a life full of stability, successes, and self-sufficiency.
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.