View a video of people served by TSI in the Permanent Supportive Housing Program. This pilot project begun in 06/2007 was developed as part of Allegheny County's Office of Behavioral Health plan for Housing As Home.
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From our feature article, we’ve seen the word stigma described as a negative judgment of a personal trait. I think that Webster’s Dictionary has an interesting definition of the word and one that I feel best describes stigma for me; that is, “a mark of shame or discredit.” This is what we are fighting against today when we think of those who have mental illness. It is connected to many myths such as people with mental illness are violent or dangerous; they aren’t able to function like “normal people”; or they can’t live in the community alone. Unfortunately, some of these myths are perpetuated by the media when they purposefully highlight the mental health background of someone who commits a crime. Because of the ever-present stigma in our society, individuals who have mental illness develop an inner shame, have difficulties being accepted, are isolated from family and often have difficulty finding housing.
“...we all need to be a little kinder and less
judgmental of our neighbors.”
As a housing provider, we have seen the discrimination in housing firsthand. Landlords are very skeptical about renting to someone with mental health problems. If you are attempting to place a “residential site” in an upscale community, you will very quickly experience NIMBYism (not in my back yard). When Mayview closed some time ago, a provider was vilified for attempting to place a program which would house such residents that had lived in Mayview in that community. Even people who knew me personally and knew what I did for a living defended their position of doing whatever it took to keep the program from locating in that area. One of the people had a physical disability. I wondered how they would feel if they were refused housing because of their disability. I think what we all need to remember are statistics that I have heard quoted many times now: 20% of the American population has a mental illness in any given year, and 50% will have a mental illness in their lifetime. Given those realities, we all need to be a little kinder and less judgmental of our neighbors.
While education about stigma is important, I don’t think it is the only thing that changes people’s behavior, and I would argue that’s what we are really after. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not change attitudes, but the law forced changes in behavior and it in turn reduced racism. Although there are some laws that make it illegal to refuse housing to someone with a disability, perhaps we need to go further to force the point that people with mental illness or any disability, for that matter, have a Right to live in the community. Maybe then, when we live side by side, we’ll see that those with mental illness are not so different from me and you.
CEO (retired), Transitional Services, Inc.
Our Own Home (OOH) is delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with Transitional Services, Inc. to develop their first Fairweather Lodge in the Western Area of Allegheny County and have a janitorial business for the residents to participate in upon moving into the house they will call "our own home."
Lawrence Demase, Chairman of the Board for Our Own Home; Beverly Rebovich, TSI Board member; Sharon Alberts, TSI CEO; Faith Stipanovich, TSI Board Chair; and Lolly Kayser, Vice Chairman for Our Own Home
One proven successful model of housing is a Fairweather Lodge (FWL). This is a home where 4–6 people of varying skills and capabilities share a house and also work together in their own business or are employed in the community. They work together to learn to solve problems using group problem-solving skills. There are no live-in staff members, although each lodge has access to a professional lodge coordinator who is available for training and consultation and is on call 24 hours a day for emergencies. Responsibility for the business and the house improves the members’ self-confidence and helps them become more independent by giving them a productive role in the community. The increased income from working and the savings from sharing the costs of housing help the members to have more disposable income and, therefore, a better quality of life. The peer support of living together offers companionship and reassurance daily. Studies have shown that people who live in a FWL show an increase in their own self worth, have more confidence, have increased skill building and develop as a contributing community member.
Responsibility for the business and the house improves
the members’ self-confidence and helps them become
more independent by giving them a productive role
in the community.
Lolly Kayser and Charlotte DiNardo, mothers of adult children who have a mental illness, founded Our Own Home (OOH). As a result of their sons’ personal experiences with housing, they realized there Homewas a need for housing for persons with mental disabilities who could not live independently, but who could recover in a living environment where they had the appropriate support. They began a movement in 2002 and organized a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit including an outstanding board of directors who believed that innovative housing opportunities for individuals with mental disabilities are necessary. During this time, they became aware of a housing model in New Castle that included an on-site work program. It was then that they also realized that Allegheny County lacked this type of housing opportunity and immediately added to their goals a plan to develop with a provider a similar program that included a work program for the individuals. Adding a variety of housing choices for individuals allows opportunities for different interests to develop.
OOH delivered their message to the Allegheny County Local Housing Options Team who then developed an incubator group. They talked with several providers, developers and representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCEDED). Three educational seminars were conducted to educate the public and private sector on issues surrounding homelessness for persons with mental illness. Thereafter, DCED awarded OOH a grant to develop a janitorial business for persons with mental disabilities.
Our Own Home’s goal is to advocate and educate providers and consumers locally about new innovative housing options where individuals will thrive in settings that are comfortable with strong support systems, including family members, peers, staff support systems and work opportunities.
Help expand the housing opportunities for adults who have a serious mental illness. The authors encourage you to visit their web site www.ourownhome.org for details and/or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
For Further Information
For specific information about TSI’s Fairweather Lodge Program or answers to your questions, contact Donna Santucci, Director of Programs. firstname.lastname@example.org
Click this link for a printable brochure about TSI’s Fairweather Lodge
To learn even more information about the Fairweather Lodge program model; basic overview, outcomes, and fidelity standards click on the links below.
For more information on making a contribution to TSI, please contact:
Gerry Henry, 412-461-1322 ext. 222 •