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Guest Blog: It’s A Key to a House And a Community by Susan Garnett

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month – observed each May – Directions Home is pleased to highlight one of our important partner agencies as a guest blogger.

It’s A Key to a House And a Community
By Susan Garnett, CEO of MHMR Tarrant County

When MHMR began partnering with Directions Home five years ago, we knew we would be supporting the Housing First approach and would help many homeless people find housing.

What we didn’t know was that the impact our staff could have in helping people would extend beyond that key to their first home.

Our first Directions Home case managers were tasked with finding chronically homeless people on streets of Fort Worth and offering housing first vouchers.

We celebrated the success of 80 percent moving into Directions Home – the first housing ever for many of them.

Our staff continued to visit the tenants, and we quickly saw the need for additional support.

MHMR staff took them shopping for food, drove an old van around town looking for furniture donations and planned parties.

“For many it was their first party, their first time baking a cake,” said Stevie Hensen, chief of Addiction Services.

As we worked with these people, we also learned of their need for support with mental health and addiction services, as well as a way to address the loneliness of now living on their own.

From the Direction Homes January 2013 report, some of the special populations we reached include:

  • 51 unsheltered veterans
  • 13 severally mentally ill
  • 38 chronic substance abuse and
  • 5 people with HIV/AIDS.

We started to host group meetings.

“This was a way to build communities with our clients,” Hansen added.

This started our “tenant-based” service team. We worked with partners across the city and encouraged that if they had a client troubled with substance abuse, we would assess them for treatment or mental health.

We’ve helped more than 200 people access mental health and substance abuse support – as well as homes – since the beginning.

It’s this sense of community that is what defines the word collaboration.

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