Front Steps Is On the Front Line, Fighting Homelessness for Vulnerable Populations in Northeast
Fortunately, many of us haven’t experienced the struggles associated with being homeless and living on the streets. We know where our next meal is coming from and have a roof over our heads to call home. But, imagine for a moment the intense pressures of living on the streets. Now imagine what it’s like for someone with a mental illness. It’s dangerous, scary, and any concept of personal safety goes right out the window.
There are mentally disabled homeless people living this frightening reality in the Northeast Ohio community. Fortunately, Front Steps is waiting with open arms. The organization shelters those struggling with mental disability—and gives them some of the “normalcy” many of us take for granted. The dignity of purposeful work. The joy of expression and creating artwork. The peace that comes with getting your hands dirty in the soil and gardening.
Mace’s team is supporting Front Steps with a drive to collect essential personal care items, and we’re going to be providing situational awareness training in the near future. We had a chance to speak with Sherri Brandon, the CEO of Front Steps to understand more about their mission and participants.
What does Front Steps do for the community?
We provide behavioral health services to people who have severe mental disabilities and have challenges accessing support services. One of our key services is providing supportive housing to a select group of homeless individuals, and we call that Saint Joseph Commons, which is a permanent supportive housing model.
The facility has 68 one-bedroom apartments where our participants live, and we provide the services for them. We also provide services to the community at large who aren’t living at Saint Joseph Commons. We provide mental health case management, drug and alcohol treatment, and peer support to help our participants rise above their challenges.
What is life like for your participants?
When you have someone who has a disability or a mental challenge living on the street—and they're not medicated—life can be daunting and very dangerous. They may be living on the street or in a shelter, but no matter how bad it is, they cling to whatever normalcy is for them, even if it’s unhealthy.
Even when they are medicated, their mental stability will fluctuate because nutrition plays a key factor in health. For people with mental disabilities who are homeless and lack proper nutrition, psychosis becomes more likely.
Some of the people who have moved into Saint Joseph Commons—who were used to staying on the streets—they would leave and try to go back and stay under a bridge or wherever they were “living” because it’s what they’re used to. And they couldn’t fathom that they now had a place to call home.
How do you help people acclimate?
On the streets, you’re always in fight or flight mode. And it’s hard for people to get out of that mentality and acclimate to having a place to call home. One of the things we do when someone is approved for our housing is to bring them here and show them our community and amenities. Our residents also welcome new people to help them feel more comfortable. It takes time and patience to help people get used to the idea of permanent housing.
It takes a team of people to wrap their arms around a person and help them navigate the world in a new way—and help them grow. It's a big challenge. It takes a real understanding of the trauma these people have faced. And the ability to deliver trauma-informed care that helps bring them back to some stability—and help them be whole.
If you’d like to support Front Steps’ mission to fight homelessness in Northeast Ohio, make a donation today.
About Front Steps
Front Steps is a nonprofit dedicated to ending the cycle of homelessness in Cuyahoga County through permanent supportive housing and services. Call the Front Steps Referral & Information Services Phone-line for a referral or if you have an inquiry about available social and supportive services in the community at: 216.647.8574