Nonprofit helps addicts, mentally ill find supportive housingWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Bob Peace has a nice apartment and is an honors student at the University of Toledo. Sometimes, he stresses out about papers. On the surface, he’s a normal student – but in reality, 54-year-old Peace has been in recovery because of drugs and mental illness 40 times. However, with the help of Neighborhood Properties Inc. (NPI), this time his recovery is sticking.
“I’ve never had any support and this time I had support and I’ve been pretty successful,” Peace said.
NPI offers supportive housing to those with mental or addiction disorders. “Our mission is ending homelessness for folks with mental illness. It’s a huge job, just tackling it at all,” said Peg Morrison, communications/fundraising manager for NPI. NPI will have its annual celebration featuring Jeannette Walls, author of “The Glass Castle,” on May 2.
The nonprofit started in 1988 along with similar programs in 10 cities using a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant. “At that time, they were just starting to look at the link between homelessness and mental illness and put those two together,” Morrison said. Twenty to 25 percent of homeless individuals live with a severe mental illness, compared with 6 percent of the general population, according to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.
Now, NPI has 572 apartments at 60 locations around Toledo and an operating budget of about $7.5 million. How much the tenant pays in rent depends on their income and is usually about 30 to 40 percent of his or her income. The rest comes from state and federal subsidies and private donations through NPI.
“There’s a huge link between homelessness and metal illnesses and addiction disorders and so supportive housing is an option that’s much more affordable than some of the options that people fall into. Some of the options aren’t very pleasant: prison, jail, hospital,” Morrison said. She added that mental hospitals can be $500 per day while independent housing is more like $500 per month.
NPI also has a housing support staff that checks in with residents.
“They make sure [tenants] do things like pay their rent. They also check up on them and see, ‘How’s your mental health going? How’s your fiscal health going?’” said Lynnette Hair, director of supportive housing.
Referrals to NPI are made by mental health agencies and other support providers. Once a referral is made and the application process is complete, tenants go through new tenant orientation, an apartment showing and lease signing before meeting with their supportive housing contact, Hair said.
Peace stressed that many former addicts fail because they go back in the environment they just came from.
“People go in with a sincere intent to get their life in order, but if you do not have some support or a clean, safe environment to live in, you’re probably not going to be too successful,” he said.
Peace was introduced to NPI a few years ago just before being released from a two-year stay in recovery.
“These guys called me like five days before I was getting ready to get out of recovery and said they had an apartment to show me and I was like man, that’s a blessing,” he recalled. “If it wasn’t for this program, I can’t tell you I’d be in this position.”
Growing up in East Toledo, Peace and his family would move every three to five months. “I don’t even like to use the term dysfunctional, because it was nonfunctional. My parents were very young when they had me. I’m the first of seven kids. My father, I didn’t really know him until I was like 13.”
Now however, Peace plans to graduate after summer semester before going on to receive his master’s degree to become a counselor. He volunteers frequently at the Salvation Army and wants to help those who are in the situation he used to be in.
“That’s not to say my life isn’t stressful. My life is so stressful sometimes that I’ll get emotional, but it’s all good stress. You know, I’ve gotta get this many papers done this week … and I know at the end of this stress, something good is coming,” Peace said.
NPI partners with several local and state groups including the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Lucas County, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority. Specific support programs for veterans, single moms, young adults and other groups are available.
NPI’s annual celebration is 6 p.m. May 2 at the Toledo Hilton Ballroom, 3100 Glendale Ave., Toledo. The speaker is Walls, a journalist who wrote a memoir on growing up with a colorful, nomadic, but often dysfunctional family. Mary Beth Zolik of 101.5 The River is set to emcee and dinner will be available. NPI asks for reservations by April 23. Tickets are $30 or $250 for table of 10. To register or learn more, call (419) 473-2604, ext. 119. Donate at www.neighborhoodproperties.org.