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Housing Initiative Helps Reduce Risk of Relapse

$200,000 SAMHSA grant targets individuals coping with homelessness, chemical dependency, and mental illness

Odyssey House has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide housing placement assistance for adults coping with homelessness, chemical dependency, and mental illness.

The federally-funded grant will allow Odyssey House to hire a housing specialist to work exclusively with mentally ill residents in treatment for substance abuse problems at Odyssey House. Known as co-occurring disorders, these difficult-to-treat problems often lead to overall poorer functioning and increased risk of relapse, making it harder for individuals to both obtain and maintain housing. The housing specialist will help men and women diagnosed with mental health problems manage their transition from treatment into permanent housing, and thereby reduce the vicious cycle of relapse and homelessness.

The addition of housing placement assistance for this vulnerable treatment population is part of the Odyssey House continuum of care, an intensive program of services which includes: substance abuse treatment; mental health services; medical care; vocational educational services; outpatient services; and employment assistance.

Dr. Peter Provet, president of Odyssey House, underscored the importance of housing services in reducing the costly societal impact of substance abuse and mental illness. “Housing assistance for a mentally ill substance abuser is about more than keeping a roof over someone’s head – it’s also about giving a fragile person a chance at living an independent, dignified life. These extra resources go a long way in preventing individuals who have achieved a sustainable level of sobriety from losing the gains they made in treatment and ending up on the streets, in city shelters, or the criminal justice system.”

Wellness Self Management Techniques Workshop

Before mentally ill homeless residents leave treatment they will now participate in a Wellness Self Management Techniques Workshop. This series of hands-on sessions includes individual coaching in such real-life skills as budgeting, making rent payments on time, and grocery shopping. Teaching residents how to manage everyday tasks is a key component of the new initiative – preparing individuals with co-occurring disorders for the next step in independent living, finding and maintaining their own home.

Once a resident completes the workshop and demonstrates an ability to live independently, the housing specialist begins work on housing placement. This process involves helping residents find affordable apartments, accompanying them on interviews, and negotiating rental agreements. It also includes a six-month follow-up visit.

This grant supplements the federally-funded Pathways to Housing Initiative, an Odyssey House housing assistance service that extends the agency’s outreach into the shelter system, enrolls homeless persons with substance abuse problems into residential or outpatient substance abuse treatment, and provides assistance with housing placement.

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