Behind each adult, child and family we serve lies a real story- stories that bring to life the true meaning hope, change and possibilities.
Sixty five year old Joseph became homeless in 1988 after a devastating fire destroyed his home and belongings of 25 years. With no family to turn to for help, he moved around finding shelter in the woods and abandoned buildings. For the past 10 years he called a small space under a bridge in Mercer County his home. This is where Joseph’s story begins to turn from tragedy to hope.
Our Project for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program first met Joseph in January of 2016. PATH provides outreach services to homeless adults with a serious mental illness with the goal of linking them to housing and formal mental health treatment. By March he agreed to services but was not yet ready for housing. Over the years, he transformed his space under the bridge to make it his own with organized sections to hang clothes, line up shoes and store food. He was comfortable and the thought of leaving his “home” was very scary.
PATH educated Joseph about all the positives that would come with housing and encouraged him to look at options. They found an apartment five minutes from the bridge that would make the transition a little easier. Thanks to the determination of PATH team members, on November 1, 2016 Joseph moved into his own apartment where he was able to celebrate his first Thanksgiving since 1988!
Leaving his familiar setting was extremely challenging at first, but now Joseph shares, “I’m happy here. I can promise you won’t find me at the bridge anymore!” Finding housing provided him with the safe, stable environment he needed to work toward a healthier future. Joseph now receives mental health treatment and looks forward to reaching his wellness goals.
On that night in 1988, Joseph lost more than just his home and belongings- he lost his sense of dignity. The PATH program works tirelessly to engage homeless adults like Joseph by visiting local shelters, transportation centers, parks, waterfronts and tent cities in Camden and Mercer Counties. In 2016, the program served 212 individuals and 38 were connected with permanent housing. Just one more outreach can mean the difference between a person lost and a full, meaningful, productive life.
Thirty-one-year-old Jamie lives with a developmental disability and also struggled for years with suicidal ideations and psychiatric hospitalizations. Living independently and maintaining interpersonal relationships was extremely difficult due to challenges with a personality disorder and bipolar disorder. For much of her life, Jamie yearned to find independence.
In 2008, Jamie entered our Supervised Apartments where she started to learn coping and anger management skills. The program provides adults with developmental disabilities the necessary daily living skills to function on their own with minimal assistance such as meal preparation, medication administration, household upkeep and community integration.
Today Jamie can proudly say that she has not had any hospitalizations in nearly ten years and no longer experiences thoughts of suicide. With daily encouragement, she now maintains her apartment with minimal help from staff, responsibly takes her medication and advocates for overall health and wellness. Jamie also sustains two jobs which allow her to function independently in the community.
This past May, Jamie and her long-term boyfriend, Raul, held a beautiful, intimate ceremony as a symbol of their love. The couple’s ability to maintain a stable relationship symbolized the icing on the cake to celebrate Jamie’s road to independence! In the future, she looks forward to living with Raul, raising a family and taking a Disney Cruise with a guided tour. Jamie’s story shows that with stable housing and wraparound services, the road to independence is possible.
Fifteen year old Kimberly moved back to Camden in 2015 after living with relatives in Puerto Rico and Florida. From a very young age, her life has been consumed with trauma. She witnessed domestic violence in the home and sadly lost both of her older brothers to gang related violent offenses. Most recently, her father was incarcerated for manslaughter. Due to chronic stress, Kimberly also experiences migraines and GI issues.
Despite these difficult challenges, Kimberly continued to attend school and became involved with the School Based Youth Services Program. She now receives counseling and participates in psychoeducational groups to help cope with past trauma. This has allowed her to focus more on her overall health and grades. Groups revolving around healthy relationships and social skills have helped Kimberly learn to manage her emotions.
The barriers Kimberly faces can be overwhelming, but with the right support system in place her confidence continues to grow. Instead of looking at the past, she looks forward to new opportunities and continuing her education.
When the Behavioral Health Home (BHH) opened in October of 2015, the program was proud to welcome 58 year old Anthony as one of their first clients. Anthony had struggled for years to manage his mental illness which left him little time to concentrate on his physical health.
Almost immediately, Anthony began actively taking control of his health by participating in events and activities offered at BHH. With motivation from staff and fellow BHH peers, he took part in nutrition classes, exercise groups and connected to a primary care doctor. His improvement did not end there!
Anthony became involved with Reach Out Speak Out Trenton, a collaborative support program which gives a safe place for people with mental illness to meet and socialize.
Reach Out Speak Out organizes field trips and provides transportation for those who attend. The organization was so impressed with Anthony’s dedication, they offered him a job as a van driver. He now works part-time and continues to receive services from BHH. For the first time in years, he feels happy, healthy and in control of his life.
When Alan first came to the RITE Center, he was looking for a place to belong. His recent housing situation went from bad to worse. He was unable to make his rent and was living in a shelter awaiting a placement from Oaks Integrated Care Haven program.
Alan was alone, unsure of his future and needed help. He began attending the RITE Center on a regular basis. At first, Alan was reserved. Slowly, Alan began to emerge from his shell, reaching out to staff more and in turn providing support for other consumers at the RITE Center.
After living in the shelter for several months, Haven was able to place Alan in his own condo. It was after the move that RITE Center staff saw a shift in Alan’s attitude. Alan started to become the natural leader that he has always been. Many members now look to him as an example of perseverance and seek him out to get guidance from him. He now helps facilitate groups, coordinate outings and does weekly outreach to engage potential new members. The RITE Center provided support to him and he shared he just wants to give to others what was given to him.
Nancy and Connor’s Story
Conner lives with his parents, Dennis and Nancy and his 8 year-old sister Kate. Early on, Conner’s development was just like any other child’s. He was meeting all his developmental milestones, walking, laughing, smiling, and speaking his first words. Then suddenly, around 18 months, there was a change. After countless visits to various doctors, Conner was diagnosed with Autism.
Seven years later, at age 11, Connor is hyperactive and physically aggressive. He displays self-abusive injuries and frequently throws tantrums. Conner requires assistance with daily living skills and is not toilet trained. Also, he is non-verbal and requires constant supervision.
Nancy learned about the Oaks Integrated Care Bridging Family Support program and reached out to us. The team collaborates with Conner’s school and therapists to teach the family alternative ways of working with him. Every day the support person goes to their home to get Conner off the school bus and the lessons begin. After only 4 weeks, Conner has reached so many personal achievements, including a decrease in self-abusive injuries and an increase in bathroom use. The family is learning a great deal from his support specialist like how to model communication, block aggressive behaviors and ignore other behaviors to show Conner what is expected of him. The family is aware that it takes little steps, but they are walking toward future independence.
Henry began his journey at Oaks Integrated Care in the MICA program. During his time in MICA, he met a fellow consumer, Donna, and fell in love. Their relationship grew and they learned they were expecting a baby.
After graduating from the MICA program, Henry transitioned to our Adult Outpatient Program (AOP). Henry remained strong in his sobriety, supported Donna through her pregnancy and celebrated the birth of their daughter. Donna, however, continued to struggle with her depression making Henry the sole caretaker for their daughter, Henna.
Henna, now four years old, has a loving father who never complains about being a single father. Henry takes his parenting responsibilities seriously and knows that he must take care of himself to give Henna the best care possible. Therefore, Henry continues his work with AOP. He visits the psychiatrist every two to three months for medication monitoring, attends individual counseling sessions and utilizes case management. He expresses his gratitude to the AOP staff every time he visits stating that “AOP gave him the coping skills needed to raise Henna.”
A little less than a year ago, Jeff came to live at the Oaks Integrated Care Fish Pond Group Home. Fish Pond provides a structured, safe environment for youth diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Upon his arrival, Jeff had very few words in his vocabulary. In addition to being on the Autism Spectrum, Jeff was diagnosed with Pica, an eating disorder that causes the person affected to crave and ingest nonfood items, such as dirt, paint and soap. Jeff was also afraid of other males and leaving the group home for any reason.
With the help of Oaks Integrated Care staff, Jeff began to adjust his behaviors. The staff created and adhered to a daily schedule, found and placed Jeff at the right school and employed plenty of positive reinforcement. Today, Jeff thrives in his new environment. Not only is he happy and active, he seeks attention in positive ways from others, like giving hugs, touching your arm, and expressing his needs. Jeff also conquered his fear of other males and going on outings.
Through it all, Jeff has become more independent. He cleans his own room and even helps staff with the laundry.
In less than 1 year, Jeff has made tremendous progress and his future looks bright.
When Juan came to the Oaks Integrated Care Hattie Tally Program, he was very quiet during groups, was unfocused, had limited responses when spoken to and required prompting to participate during groups. He would answer in short, concrete answers with a flat affect and appeared disengaged to his surroundings. Juan did not like being around others, including his own family, and would either separate himself from the group whenever he could.
Eventually, after Oaks Integrated Care staff showed Juan that Hattie Tally is a safe place to share emotions, thoughts and opinions, Juan became more comfortable. He began volunteering to speak during group counseling and proudly shared his perspective. He engaged in group discussions and occasionally offers feedback even when he is not prompted. During his psych appointments, he proudly shares with the doctor the changes he’s experienced in group.
Juan is living with his younger sister and brother-in-law, and they are seeing a change in Juan as well. Juan’s sister was finally able to engage him in family activities. Prior to this time, Juan would isolate himself from family members and would remain in his room. They also began assigning Juan’s “chores” around the house, like cleaning the bathroom, doing his laundry, and light home repair under his brother-in-law’s supervision. Recently, he shared that he and his brother-in-law went shopping for supplies for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. He was very excited about being able to help others and the time spent with his brother-in-law and proudly shared this story in group.
After developing trust with the Hattie Tally staff, Juan’s confidence grew in the program and then again at home. His increased confidence level means he feels more comfortable sharing with his peers and especially staff members. Overall, Juan is living a more fulfilling life in program and at home.
Sharon reached out to Oaks Integrated Care for help with her daughter, Lily. Sharon needed professional help to deal with Lily’s verbal and physical behaviors toward herself and Lily’s brother, Adam. Lily was expressing her anger and frustration with verbal threats, outbursts, tantrums and physical aggression towards Sharon and Adam.
After speaking with Oaks Integrated Care staff, Lily was temporarily placed in a Oaks Integrated Care group home. Lily’s therapist quickly set about introducing a feelings vocabulary to assist Lily in expressing herself and the feelings she had suppressed surrounding her parents’ divorce. Lily worked with her therapist and her mother during family therapy sessions. During these sessions Lily and Sharon learned new tools to allow better communication regarding their emotions.
Lily was successfully discharged into her mothers’ care. Recently, Sharon shared with Oaks Integrated Care staff that Lily is continuing to use the tools they learned in therapy together as a family. Now, Lily is blossoming at home and school.
Lindsey and Sofia’s Story
After gaining enough courage to leave Sofia’s physically abusive father, Lindsey became a single teenage mother. Lindsey struggles to make ends meet, continue her education and care for Sofia. Sofia needs specialized care because she was born with a congenital heart defect and also needs a feeding tube.
This is a difficult transitional time for Lindsey and Sofia, and therefore they’ve enrolled in the Oaks Integrated Care FLEX program (Families Living in Extreme Stress) to deal with the emotional trauma they’re dealing with. The FLEX program offers Lindsey and Sofia therapy, mentoring services, respite and behavioral assistance. Lindsey has limited transportation so staff also helps