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Battling More Than Homelessness

When Richard walked out of Nashville Rescue Mission arm-in-arm with his sister, it was nothing short of a miracle. After a stay of 524 days, Richard was headed to Indiana to live with his family—meeting many of them for the very first time.

“The Mission provides case management services to everyone who walks through our doors,” said Mike Tatar, Director of Case Management Services for Nashville Rescue Mission. “Unfortunately, there are many who do not want help, and some, like Richard, are so lost in the fog of mental illness, they may be unable to ask for help.”

“The day Richard reconnected with his family was only possible because a dedicated group of people made a concerted effort to help someone, many might consider unreachable,” said Mark Templeton, supervisor of Mental Health Cooperative’s (MHC) PATH (Project for Assistance in Transitioning from Homelessness) program.

“I’m grateful Nashville Rescue Mission exists. I appreciate the collaboration between our staff and the Mission. It’s because of this relationship, Richard and others like him can get the help they need to win the battle over mental illness. Our goal at MHC is to increase a person’s quality of life. Richard’s quality of life improved, and that’s definitely something worth celebrating.”

“I was shocked when I got the call from Nashville Rescue Mission telling me Richard was there,” said his sister Patti. “I hadn’t seen him in 34 years, and the last time we spoke was in 1988.”

“The key to helping someone like Richard is in case management and understanding the connection between homelessness, addiction, and mental illness,” said Glenn Cranfield, president and CEO of the Mission. “It’s important we educate the community about these connections so we can provide much-needed services without stigma or judgment. By providing MHC with office space and hours at the Mission, our case managers can refer homeless guests experiencing mental health issues to them where they receive comprehensive treatment for their psychosocial and psychiatric needs. This relationship made it possible for Richard to get the help he needed.”

“While Richard battled alcohol early in his life, over time, mental illness debilitated him,” said Tatar. “It took months of saying hello to him before Richard felt comfortable talking with a doctor from MHC.”

After a couple of months on the right medications, Richard recalled names and telephone numbers. A few phone calls later, Richard’s family was making plans to pick him up and take him home.

So how does someone like Richard end up homeless and living at Nashville Rescue Mission? “If someone has an untreated mental illness, things can easily spiral out of control,” said Tatar.

“Without nutritious meals, their medication may not work, or because they are homeless and unstable, they struggle with taking it, or they can’t afford it. It’s a vicious cycle we see within the homeless community.”

“How can you go to treatment without the stability of a place to eat and sleep?” asks Cranfield. “A person needs to feel safe and be willing to trust those who are trying to help. The Mission provided Richard with a safe place to sleep and nutritious meals to eat. With patience and persistence, we reached Richard. It took time, but it was so worth it.”

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that more than a third of people experiencing homelessness across the United States also has a severe mental illness. They’re gripped by schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression—all manageable with the right medication and counseling.

“Left untreated, mental illness can rob people of decades of health and life,” said Cranfield. “These losses are tragic because there is evidence that early intervention can prevent mentally ill people from deteriorating, halting what once seemed like an inevitable decline. And in the eyes of God, regardless of their situation, circumstance, diagnosis, or addiction, each person matters. That’s what we are all about—showing each person who is hurting, hungry, homeless, or lost, God loves them, and no one is too far gone to be beyond His reach. There is hope.”

Your gifts radically changed Richard’s life. And in the process, you have touched the lives of his family, the Mission staff, and everyone who has heard his story. Thank you for giving. Because of you, lives are transformed, and families are restored.

You can give others like Richard a second chance.

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