Milwaukee, Wis. (10/25/13) — “Don’t give up! Do not give up!” Antonio R. Riley, the Midwest regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) told three young people he met today from St. Aemilian-Lakeside’s Supportive Permanent Housing Program.
HUD supplies funds for the program, which provides housing at sites around the city and case management for homeless young adults with mental illness. Supportive Permanent Housing is one of three programs that comprise St. Aemilian-Lakeside’s Independent Living Services (ILS).
“Before this program, I was ready to give up,” Deion Bishop told Riley. “Every other program I went to, they denied me…. Then I contacted Jane (Ottow, ILS supervisor), and right off it was good. She helped me realize it’s hard out there, but you don’t give up. Keep your head up.”
Deion said that, in addition to a roof over her head, the program has helped her secure SSI income. “This program has really opened doors for me.”
Clients Wil Johnson and Ed Burch told Riley how the program has helped them manage their mental health and secure jobs and volunteer opportunities.
“And St. Aemilian-Lakeside steps in as surrogate parents because a lot of us don’t have parents. It’s like a family,” Wil said.
Jane said that the HUD resources help Independent Living Services provide stability and develop long-term relationships. “Having the ability to stick with them really is a luxury,” she said.
“We are looking to keep them safe and secure and develop their futures,” Chief Program Officer Frank Gaunt said.
“I was just so moved by what I saw,” Riley said about descriptions of ILS he’d seen on the St. Aemilian-Lakeside website. Housing becomes a platform from which the clients can improve their lives, he said. Appointed to his position by President Obama, Riley said that addressing homelessness is on the top of the list of goals the president has set for HUD.
“We understand that if you don’t address the issue of the homeless, or people on the edge of becoming homeless, or who have mental health or substance abuse issues, we’re only going to see the cycle continuing,” he said.
Studies have shown that investing in housing and supportive services vs. shelters helps homeless individuals to be more stable and successful, Riley said.
“But all the services they offer (at St. Aemilian-Lakeside) would be useless if you didn’t have the mindset, ‘I’m going to take this opportunity,’” he told the young people.
“You guys are an example of the success not only of your program, but a success of our society, so keep it up.”
“I just want to thank you so much for the funding you’ve provided for this program,” Deion said.
“Without this program, there’d be a lot of sad faces out there.”