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Baltimore Center brings hope to homeless struggling with mental illness

August 3, 2012
by Shannon Brys
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At the HOPE Wellness and Recovery Center in Baltimore, mentally ill homeless individuals are helped on a daily basis by staff members who have struggled with the same problems throughout their lives.

HOPE stands for “Helping Other People through Empowerment” and it seems that is exactly what they do.  There are only nine staff members at HOPE and each one of them would prefer that the client want to get better.  Thomas Hicks, executive director at HOPE, says that they are not interested in forcing anyone to go through the recovery process.  They want to help the clients to understand the problem, feel empowered to achieve a better quality of life and get better on their own desire.

In a recent article by Kaiser Health News, Crista Taylor, director of adult services at Baltimore Mental Health Systems, speaks to the state’s ongoing deficit reduction strategy and says that fortunately, HOPE’s funding has remained stable.

Besides the basic services such as laundry, showers, Internet access, meals and entertainment, something that is unique to HOPE is the peer-to-peer counseling that occurs each day.    

Peer-to-peer support has been found in substance abuse treatment programs but is relatively new to the mental health field.  The Kaiser Health News article details Hicks’ struggle with mental illness and drug addiction on his way to become the executive director at HOPE.  Many of the other staff members have struggled with these problems as well and that helps the clients to feel more comfortable and to be able to truly recover with someone who knows where they have been and how they feel.

HOPE currently serves about 25 clients throughout the 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday.  Hicks’ major wish at this time is that HOPE can avoid the budget cuts that other organizations in the field have been seeing so other people can benefit from the services that he believes saved his life. 

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