Tag Archives: mental illness

Feeling the Pain: One addict learns to experience life, good and bad

By: Danni Eickenhorst, MidlandDivision, Content Specialist

Phil George turned 18 in the Illinois Juvenile Correction System. He entered adulthood battling mental illness, addiction and ghosts from his early days. At 16, he was kicked out of his childhood home. Suffering from parental rejection and abuse, he turned to borderline behaviors and had been jailed for burning down a house in an insurance scheme.

Phil works to fill food orders at the Alton Salvation Army food pantry.

Upon exiting the system, George found himself homeless and turned to using drugs. He entered into The Salvation Army’s Harbor Light facility in downtown St. Louis, where he stayed nearly four months. “I wasn’t ready to get help yet, but they showed me a lot of love,” he recalls.

Each time he would get sober, tragedy would strike, sending him into a tailspin that would jeopardize his sobriety. He suffered the loss of a best friend, and two girlfriends, and became haunted by the losses.  “Old Phil would show up. I would relapse, try to commit suicide, stop going to meetings and volunteering,” he said.

Today, Phil is sober and has been for almost five years. “I stay clean for my grandmother,” he says, choking up, “I stole from her when I was in my addiction, and I feel that staying clean is the only way I can make it up to her, now that she has passed away.” Phil attends 12-step meetings several times weekly and finds comfort in daily routines, such as volunteering three to four days each week at The Salvation Army’s food pantry inAlton. “Here I am surrounded by positive people. It’s been good for me. I have a support system,” says George, “I have learned to feel the pain, both good and bad, and to get through it, and having that support has made all the difference.”

The O’Fallon Shelter: Empowering People to Help Themselves

At the age of 29, Rebecca Reeves is starting over. Just a few months out of prison and 6 months sober after a long addiction to heroin, the mother of two is finding a new start with The Salvation Army’s O’Fallon homeless shelter.

“The Salvation Army provides me with a lot of structure and a stable living environment,” says Reeves, who notes that these things are critical for her recovery, as she battles both drug addiction and mental illness.

Reeves is a resident at the O’Fallon homeless shelter, where she is receiving vocational rehabilitation, job leads, medical treatment, counseling, medication and life skills education. She credits The Salvation Army for empowering her and others like her to do more for themselves.

“The staff here motivates you.” she says. “They have shown me that people want to help me, and that I can’t do everything on my own.”

Reeves and other residents enjoy regular visits with a counselor that comes to the facilities on Saturdays. They also receive assistance for mental and physical ailments, including necessary treatments through the nearby Crider facility.

Leslie MarNa, the Regional Shelter Administrator for The Salvation Army says that the O’Fallon shelter is a lot more than a hot and a cot, with a network of resources that allow them to provide meaningful services to nearly 100 residents each year.

The O’Fallon shelter often receives referrals from hospitals, psychiatric facilities and local government entities. They provide housing for single parents with children and married families, affected by homelessness or domestic violence.

“A family or individual is allowed to stay for 4 months,” says MarNa, “but these days the stays have been a bit longer, because the time it takes to help someone establish a stable income has grown longer due to job shortages.”

Parenting classes, a family play room and suites designed to accommodate children are assisting Reeves and other residents in rebuilding their lives and restoring their damaged relationships.

With help from shelter staff and the comfortable accommodations provided, Rebecca can keep her children during her periods of visitation, and also provide them with a sense of structure and security during their visits. “They love coming here. They love the staff and they can’t wait for their time with me,” says Reeves.

Shelter residents are mandated to save 70% of any income they receive while staying in the shelter. A local bank has also provided residents with financial fitness workshops, helping them set up savings accounts and waiving many of the traditional requirements and fees, in an effort to help them make a fresh start.

“When people hear the term ‘homeless shelter,’ they picture something different,” says Reeves. At the O’Fallon shelter, her children sleep in comfortable bunk beds at night in a private room, and can play on the playground, volleyball courts or Wii during the day.

“If I didn’t have the Salvation Army as a resource, I would be on the streets and I wouldn’t be sober. The donations they receive help rebuild families. They are helping me and others like me to get my life back on track.”

Rebecca remains hopeful for her future, hoping to find a job at a local factory so that she can provide a stable home for her children, but knows she can lean on the staff at the shelter long after she moves on. “You know that even when you leave, you’ll have a support system. I’ve got the best support system, and its here.”

In addition to monetary donations, the shelter is in need of donations of personal care items, such as general toiletries, laundry detergent, bleach and dryer sheets. To donate material goods, please contact Leslie MarNa at 314-423-7770 ext. 7723. Cash donations can be made online.

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