Providing Mental Health Services to Homeless Families

Providing Mental Health Services for Homeless Families

There are more than 1.5 million homeless Americans.

Chances are, you have met someone who has been homeless at one time.
Maybe this person works in your neighborhood or now lives a few miles away.  To become homeless is a traumatic circumstance and it can do great harm on an individual’s mental health. Wellspring House, a North Shore nonprofit organization, is hoping to help alleviate some of the psychological toll that homeless families experience. With the help of grants from both the federal government and Community Benefits arm of Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals, Wellspring is hosting a new initiative in Gloucester called Project RISE.  Conceived by the statewide Institute of Health and Recovery, Project RISE pairs homeless families with clinical therapists trained in trauma. “In severe crisis, it is quite common for these families, especially the moms, to become afflicted with anxiety and depression,” said Melissa Dimond, the executive director of Wellspring House.  Mental health often takes a backseat to the acute nature of living in transition. “These families need a lot of help; they’ve had major interruptions in their lives,” Dimond said.
So far, 14 families are benefiting from Project RISE services. The Gloucester-based Wellspring House was founded in 1981.  Last year, the organization helped 1,864 parents and children from Cape Ann and the larger North Shore region through a wide array of services, such as temporary shelter, housing referrals, and adult education and job training.  One of the first families to benefit from Project RISE was a mom with two young children.  The mother had a history of depression and substance misuse.  The mother sustained a long period of homelessness in the past.  “Homelessness is often a trigger for underlying issues,” Dimond said.  With the help of Project RISE, the mother is able to better focus on saving money and securing more permanent housing, while clinicians are helping her with mood management and building healthy coping skills.  So far, the mother has been showing substantial progress.  Clinical therapy will remain in place after she finds permanent housing, for at least a year.  There is no cost to these families, the services are provided through the grant funding.  The $15,000 grant from Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals is being used to establish office space for two clinicians at Wellspring’s main campus in Gloucester, help with computer network improvements, and fund staff time for program planning.  “We expect that nearly 200 families will receive ongoing clinical therapy services over the course of the program,” Dimond said.  The program began in April 2019 and will run through September 2023.

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