Improving Mental Health For Our Unhoused Neighbors

It’s no secret that mental health affects people from all walks of life. According to The National Institute of Mental Health, roughly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental health conditions –  a staggering 44 million people. Day-to-day life can be stressful and overwhelming…

…But imagine experiencing that without a roof over your head.

You have no secure walls or doors with locks. You are literally sharing a public space with everyone else around you. When you’re unhoused, you may experience horrible things like being robbed and assaulted. To make matters worse, many people experiencing homelessness feel like they’re being ignored and forgotten. 

Living homeless in one of the richest nations in human history is already proven to adversely affect all three components that create our portrait of self-value. They are self-perception, social comparison, and the way we perceive others as perceiving us. Many complain about feeling unsafe, unclean, uncared for, and invisibleInvisible People.

Food on Foot Creates A Safe And Positive Environment:

Food on Foot’s Jobs & Housing program helps people experiencing homeless regain their footing back into society with full-time jobs, housing, and life-skills. One big focus of this program includes mental health assistance aimed at tackling stress, anxiety, and depression.   

Not all people experiencing homelessness have mental health conditions.
But those who do are more likely report depression and anxiety.

Judgement surrounding depression and anxiety is one of the biggest hurdles preventing people to ask for help. In many cases, they feel it’s easier to live with mental illness rather than the stigma associated with it.   

This is why Food on Foot provides a safe and caring environment where Jobs & Housing participants can ask for and receive help. This happens during two critical stages in a participant’s journey through the program:  

Stage 1:
The initial stage when a participant is currently experiencing homelessness

One of the first goals for an incoming unhoused participant is to recreate his or her internal sense of trust and confidence–a mindset of self-belief– which disappears when basic shelter is lost.

One of the ways we support our participants is to work privately with each person. Here, we create individualized case plans while finding coping strategies to help manage stress and anxiety they may encounter while still living on the streets or in an unstable housing situation. On Sundays, we discuss as a group, stress and anxiety management and other topics that may pertain to their mental health and wellness. – Stephanie Vargas, Program Manager, Food on Foot. 

Stage 2:
When a participant earns a full-time job and apartment through Food on Foot:

It’s easy to think that once someone leaves homelessness, their mental health quickly improves. But the reality is that transitioning back into a full-time job and renting an apartment can come with its own stressors.  

There can be a lot of built-up internal pressure to be successful both at work and while participating in the Jobs & Housing Program. There’s also the stress involved with juggling full-time work, social activities and managing money. Some fear that if they fail, they may end up homeless once again. These feelings can cause more stress and anxiety.  

Program Director, Precious Boone explains: “This is the time when we really lean into our participants to provide them extra support as they’re balancing all their needs.” 

3 Ways You Can Help:

1. Be Kind, Say Hello, and Make Eye Contact: 

Our unhoused neighbors are people, just like us. They experience life a little different than we do and they endure a lot more than we know. If you pass an unhoused neighbor on the street, be kind, say hello and make eye contact. These small yet powerful gestures can go a long way in making someone know that they are not forgotten. 

2. Volunteer With Food on Foot! 

Every Sunday, Food on Foot volunteers distribute nutritious meals, clothing and essential supplies to upwards of 250 unhoused and low-income neighbors in Hollywood.  Giving back not only feels good, but it also brightens the day for the people who come for a meal. 

Click HERE to sign up and volunteer

3. Make A Gift and Change a Life: 

Please consider making a gift to Food on Foot so that more unhoused neighbors can get back on their feet again with full-time jobs, housing, life-skills, and confidence. 

Click HERE to make a gift.

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