December 28, 2005
In This Issue:

RESIDENTS MOVE INTO BELMONT APARTMENTS

By the time this is received, ten formerly homeless individuals will have moved into their own furnished studios at the Belmont Apartments. The Belmont Apartments on "F" Street in Belmont is the largest supportive housing facility for persons living with mental illness in San Mateo County. The program provides adults living with mental illness the support and assistance necessary to participate in community activities at the highest level of independence possible. Residents live in one of 24 single- occupancy studio apartments surrounding a central courtyard. There are shared common areas for group activities and support services provided on-site. The site includes a community room, an on-site manager apartment, laundry room, and office space.

An MHA Case Manager tells us the story of two new Belmont Apartments residents who woke up excitedly at 3 am at MHA's Spring Street Shelter on the day of their move. One said to the other: "It's like we're two seven-year-olds waiting for Santa to come." By 8 am all their belongings were in boxes and they had cajoled another resident with a truck to help them move in.

Many of the new tenants have spent years without stable housing, so this year will be extraordinary as they make friends, learn about their new community, and reconnect with family and former friends. For most, this will mark the first time they will be able to spend the holidays in their own home. On-site resident manager Michael Maylan is helping each resident become acquainted with the facility and its amenities. A calendar of activities and educational opportunities is being prepared by residents, peer counselors and other staff to meet the needs and interests of all.

See the slide show from the Belmont Apartments opening.





HOLIDAY PARTY BRINGS JOY TO THE COMMUNITY


Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived thanks to the assistance
of Supervisor Rich Gordon and Margaret Taylor

MHA held its 31st Annual Friendship Center Holiday Party on Friday, December 16, in Foster City. With a caring community's support, MHA staff purchased 300 gifts for Friendship Center members, and for residents of our shelter, transitional and permanent housing programs. Because this party will be the only holiday celebration for many of the mentally ill adults in our community, we make it a traditional observance with a holiday meal and all the trimmings. There was a disc jockey for dancing and Santa and Mrs. Claus were there to distribute a gift to each person.


All of the guests received a gift
from Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elf.

The event is over, but you can still support the event, with a donation of $25 or more. A $25 donation will cover the cost of six gifts or five holiday lunches. Please support Operation Reindeer with a tax-deductible contribution today!





FIRST PERSON: MHA CLIENT ALLEN RAMIREZ

"My story of alcoholism and grave emotional instability began during middle school. Drinking everyday without being noticed by my parents or teachers, hey, I got away with it. I was fooling everybody. I was always acting like somebody else. To be myself was too painful. It was not until I ended up on a "Psych" ward, at 45 years of age, with a powerful addiction to meth and not so good relationships. I have since devoted everyday since I arrived at Spring Street over three months ago, to look at myself and do the work I have to do, to be able to look in the mirror and say to myself and mean it, "Hello, welcome back, it's nice to meet you, you seem like a nice and good man." Spring Street Shelter has given me the foundation I needed, the time I needed and the ears of many caring staff and clients that have been priceless."

Allen "Paco" Ramirez, Redwood City, November 2005





SUPPORTER PROFILE: SANDY WHITLARK

"I support the Mental Health Association as my way of saying thank you and appreciation for everything that their Friendship Centers do for the clients living with mental illness. My brother lives with a mental illness, and MHA has made it possible for him to have a place to go, to enjoy himself, and to be with other people. My brother especially enjoys the parties, the food, and the outings. The outings offer a safe and familiar group environment where they feel comfortable, and go to places they wouldn't ordinarily go to. The Friendship Centers are wonderfully inviting places that offer a wide variety of activities and programs. Clients who attend are thrilled to be there and are eager to help with preparation and cleanup of meals and other activities. My brother's been attending Friendship Centers for 25 years, and they're vitally important in his life. The staff genuinely cares about each client, and the clients respond so positively to this."

Sandra Whitlark, San Mateo, November 2005





FILL A STOCKING WITH HOPE

This holiday season there are many ways that you can support MHA and its clients with a financial gift.

  • A $20 donation will provide grocery vouchers for homeless in our shelters.
  • A $50 donation will purchase clothing for homeless who are employed or seeking employment.
  • A $100 donation will purchase one week of food for seven residents in Transitional Housing at Spring Street.

Learn more about ways to give and make a donation today!





TEACHING IN SCHOOLS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS

MHA is now offering a new community service program for schools to teach students about mental illness. "Breaking the Silence" (BTS) is an innovative teaching package which includes lesson plans, games and posters on serious mental illness for three grade levels: upper elementary, middle, and high school. BTS puts a human face on mental illness and confronts the myths that reinforce the silence. Students learn that they can get help for themselves, friends, or family members when they recognize the warning signs of mental illness and the importance of seeking treatment early. Just as students learn about AIDS, diabetes and heart disease, the time has come for classrooms to discuss diseases of the brain. The lesson plans were developed by three veteran teachers from NAMI Queens/Nassau who are also family members of people who have a mental illness. BTS is currently being used in 50 states and parts of Canada, Mexico, Ireland and Armenia. Teachers may contact Terri Byrnes at the MHA by calling (650) 368-3345 ext: 149, to schedule a free presentation in their classroom.

For more information about BTS visit www.btslessonplans.org





Get Involved
SUPPORT THE MHA BY MAKING A DONATION TODAY!

Your generosity will help in providing much needed services and programs to persons with mental illness. Click on the Donate Now Button below to get linked to the MHA's donation page.

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Visit the MHA website at www.mhasmc.org.

Calendar of Events

May 2006
Mental Health Month

May 19, 2006
Community Service League Kitchen Tour

June 3, 2006
NAMI Walk in San Francisco

October 2006
Mental Illness Awareness Month