Walking down the road to recovery with help from peers

Learning to live with a mental illness – particularly severe and persistent ones like schizophrenia and depression – is challenging. Addressing and managing the symptoms can be a daily struggle, leaving little time and energy to keep up with daily tasks.

NAMI Waukesha, a family and consumer-run organization that provides support, education and advocacy to individuals and families with mental illness, has found that the most successful way in helping people stay on track is to have them work closely with people who have been there before.

With its housing support and advocacy program, the agency relies on certified peer specialists to guide people with mental illness through the process of finding safe and affordable housing as well as maintaining it. Peer specialists have struggled with mental illness but are at a point in their recovery where they are able to help others. A special certification program gives them the adequate training needed to work with others.

NAMI Waukesha began offering the program in October 2009 to address the gap in services that existed in Waukesha County. The agency had been receiving calls for people who needed assistance finding and maintaining safe, affordable housing and either weren’t eligible for services offered by the county or didn’t want them.

Referrals for the agency’s program come from local homeless shelters such as Hebron House of Hospitality, Jeremy House and the Salvation Army, and families themselves. After an assessment, peer specialists begin to work with individuals who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless to access the resources and learn the skills necessary to live on their own. They provide help ranging from keeping their apartment clean to keeping up with their treatment and appointments. Peer specialists also work with family and friends so they better understand the mental illness and how to strengthen their support network.

To make a grant recommendation to support this agency's work, log in to Philanthropy Online or contact a member of the donor services team.

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Funding needs include:

$1,200 - $1,400 pays security deposit and first month’s rent for one household

$5,000 supports the housing support and advocacy program for one month and provides services for 20 households