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This week is National Prevention Week, an annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of and action around mental and substance use disorders. Addiction and trauma are key drivers of poverty. In this post, we will highlight one Stand Together Foundation Catalyst that is working to help individuals break the cycle.

One night in January 2015, over half a million people were homeless. Total homelessness estimates are usually several times a one-night count. These numbers don’t include those temporarily staying with friends or relatives, or those who are considered at-risk for homelessness. The number of Americans at-risk for homelessness, with only unstable, unaffordable housing options, is in the millions.

The driving factors of homelessness are multiple and complex, unique for every individual. What happens when homelessness is compounded by mental illness and substance use disorders? The path to stability, health, and self-sufficiency becomes increasingly blockaded and unnavigable.

The relationship between poverty, homelessness, and mental health is an intricate one with no simple answers. Which comes first? Is poverty a risk factor for addiction? Is addiction a risk factor for poverty? The nature of the relationship is much debated. An accurate understanding requires a broader contextual lens that includes the family system, education opportunities, access to health care, employment, and more.

Regardless of the cause-and-effect relationship, mental illness and substance use disorders are irrefutably prevalent among individuals struck by homelessness and poverty. Some reports estimate 38 percent of the homeless population is dependent on alcohol and 26 percent regularly use drugs. For the poor, mental illness and substance use disorders present significant obstacles on the already complicated and long path to self-sufficiency and well-being.

Effective, long-term solutions require an innovative, integrated, and individualized model. Stand Together Foundation Catalyst City Rescue Mission has just that.

City Rescue Mission: A Safe Haven and Place of Refuge

The State of Oklahoma is home to one of the largest homeless populations in the country, which has been increasing in recent years. Estimates for individuals experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City alone are between 6,000-7,000.

City Rescue Mission began in 1960 with 20 beds and one shower. Today, the mission serves the largest portion of Oklahoma City’s homeless population — more than 400 people a day, over 5,000 every year — in partnership with over 70 community agencies.

Their holistic approach addresses the complexity of substance use and homelessness head on. Offering shelter, food, and clothing to individuals who are homeless is only the beginning. City Rescue Mission’s core programming is Bridge to Life, a recovery program that is now in treatment centers across the country. Bridge to Life helps individuals assess their specific needs and roadblocks to recovery. Over 10-12 months, the program focuses on anger management, spiritual development, defining stressors, and job readiness. Staff work with clients individually to craft a tailored plan to sobriety and safe housing. Services include crisis stability, specialized services for those with physical and mental needs, educational support, employment services, and a holistic recovery program.

For Katie, City Rescue Mission was her last chance. Katie grew up with financial hardships in Texas, but she had a bright future ahead of her. She graduated high school and enrolled at Sam Houston State University. Despite her father’s warnings — who served time in prison and was in recovery — Katie started on the slippery slope of experimenting with drugs, in part coping with sexual abuse she suffered as a child. At age 28, she was homeless, pregnant, and addicted to drugs. Katie was arrested. Her daughter was removed from her custody at birth. She had nowhere to go.

City Rescue Mission welcomed Katie with open arms. The Bridge to Life program helped Katie find the strength, encouragement, faith, and sobriety she was longing for. Today, Katie is clean and sober, full of hope, and set to be reunified with her daughter.

City Rescue Mission gave Katie the support she needed to address each barrier standing in the way of personal transformation. The result?

“I thank God every day for the City Rescue Mission; a safe haven, a refuge for recovery, a place where the lost can go to be found.”

City Rescue Mission is a Stand Together Foundation Catalyst. To learn more, visit their Catalyst page.

City Rescue Mission Catalyst Profile
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Written by Kate Schmidgall

Editor in Chief at Bittersweet Monthly, Washington, DC

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