Southwest Counseling Solutions is a grantee of the Services in Supportive Housing (SSH) program of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The SSH program funds grantees to provide intensive services to prevent or reduce chronic homelessness.
Piquette Square is a building that stands at attention, waiting for new residents to arrive. The veterans who come to live there often face significant challenges. But the 150 housing units reserved for them in this building are teeming with life.
Piquette Square, built specifically for veterans experiencing homelessness, is part of Southwest Counseling Solutions in Detroit, Michigan, an organization that serves 450 people through a housing resource center and other supportive services. “As an agency, we had served veterans in the past,” explains Jaime Ebaugh, Director of Supportive Housing. “However, we had never specifically designed a space and a program for veterans, whose needs are so great.”
Piquette Square serves both male and female veterans, and all residents have Section 8 subsidies. There is a Veterans Affairs (VA) staff member that has been provided through the Housing and Urban Development—Veterans Association of Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers. The services are provided by a collaboration of different groups and are based on need.
“For the most part, [the veterans] are doing very well, and many see this as a stepping stone,” says Jaime. “Some residents desire to reestablish custody of their children, while others say this is where they want to live out their lives.”
Southwest Counseling Solutions’ goal is to address the entire person, and it approaches healing in ways that complement traditional therapeutic settings. Piquette Square offers alternative healing arts, which focus on body, mind, and spirit. Residents can take classes in Tai Chi and cooking, and The Detroit Institute of Art works with individuals to make their own journals as a way to tell their stories, which serve as artistic mirrors to their past. It also provides courses in stained glass making, yoga, and music therapy.
The organization also offers a “Walking Away Your Stress” program to teach relaxation techniques. Individuals who live in close proximity to one another go to the river with staff, and they walk and talk about relieving stress. Groups take trips to museums and participate in community life in order to integrate and build a sense of belonging.
People who are not living at Piquette Square receive housing and supportive services at scattered site apartments. The services are designed to assess for histories of substance use and mental illness, as well as other current conditions. The group follows the evidence-based practice (EBP) Assertive Community Treatment (ACT). This currently includes a nurse, two peer specialists, and three clinicians. This team works to see residents two to three times per week.
As people improve, they move to outpatient clinics. Currently, Southwest Counseling Solutions is in year three of a five-year SAMHSA grant. Their goal is to solidify their ACT Team. “The funding from this grant is funneled to work with people who have been designated as living with high levels of mental illness and substance use,” explains Jaime.
All clients are referred through their Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) team. The team’s goal is to conduct outreach with people who are experiencing homelessness and serious mental illness and substance use. The team then creates Housing Opportunity Plans, helping clients collect all necessary paper work to become housed.
Jaime recalls the story of one young man, Eric*, whose entry into their program—and subsequent growth within it—was possible because of SAMHSA funding. This twenty-one-year-old man came in off the streets. He had been living in and out of shelters for an indeterminate amount of time after being thrown out of his family’s home. When Eric arrived at Southwest Counseling Solutions, he was told that they worked with people who lived with mental illness. He immediately recoiled and said, “Oh, I am NOT mentally ill.”
Jaime stepped in, and Eric explained that he believed people were constantly talking about him. Over time, this belief had led to repeated arguments and had caused him to be thrown out of every facility he had been in. He remained perplexed—and misunderstood.
During his time at Southwest Counseling Solutions, Eric received a psychiatric evaluation. Jaime and staff learned he had likely been having symptoms since the age of sixteen, and that he had been hearing voices for many years. Without understanding what they were, Eric had believed people at the facilities he visited were talking about him.
He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and received medical treatment and education about his illness. The voices diminished, he was housed with vouchers in Section 8 housing, and he currently lives in housing funded by Southwest Counseling Solutions’ SAMHSA grant. Eric was once afraid—but now, he understands his illness, has goals to finish his education, and smiles more often.
*Not his real name. His real name has been changed to protect his privacy.
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