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Monday, October 29, 2012

"Back on My Feet" ~ Anne Mahlum's Vision For the Homeless

Homelessness and mental health

Homelessness has become a very visible part of our culture. If you are old enough to remember 1963, then you might recall the passing of The Community Mental Health Act of 1963. While this act was to allow for Federal funding for community mental health centers, many experts believe that it was this act that set the stage for increasing the number of homeless in the United States. According to Wikipedia, following the enactment of The Community Mental Health Act:

Long term psychiatric patients were released from state hospitals into SROs and supposed to be sent to community mental health centers for treatment and follow-up. It never quite worked out properly, the community mental health centers mostly did not materialize, and this population largely was found living in the streets soon thereafter with no sustainable support system.

Homelessness and addiction

Studies of the homeless indicate that many who are homeless also suffer from prolonged drug and alcohol abuse. On any given night in America approximately 636,000 individuals are homeless.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): "One study reported a 23 percent lifetime prevalence rate of co-occurring disorders for individuals who were homeless. Individuals with co-occurring disorders who are homeless face complex physical, social, and psychological challenges to recovery."

Adult children of alcoholics and the homeless

The homeless are often alienated by their family and close friends. This alienation almost always starts with the homeless person's disease of addiction alienating an addicted individual's family and friends who could otherwise provide support during difficult economic times. The family members may want to help, but they may also be physically, emotionally and financially exhausted from living with the addict and the disease. It is after all, a family disease. Any every family member needs to figure out how they can deal with watching their loved one's life implode from addiction. This is particularly true of adult children of alcoholics.

Meet Anne Mahlum founder of "Back on My Feet"

According to the Back on My Feet (BoMF) website:

"Anne's relationship with running began when she was 16 as a way to deal with her father’s struggle with a gambling addiction. While Anne could never find a way to help her dad, she found her own answers in the life lessons that surround running, such as taking things one step at a time and learning the value of being on difficult roads. Ten years later, Anne's running led her past a homeless shelter in Philadelphia where she developed a friendly rapport with some of the residents. One morning, she realized that running could benefit these individuals in the same way that it helped her. Back on My Feet had its first official run on July 3, 2007 and in just a few years, has grown to a $4.8 million nonprofit that’s moved hundreds of individuals experiencing homelessness from dependency to self-sufficiency."

CBS Evening News "Turning Around the Lives of the Homeless"

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

World Homeless Day 2012

World Homeless Day 2012 was held on October 10th. While the homeless population in the United States seems staggering, you may be surprised to know that worldwide it is estimated that the number considered homeless is 100 million.

As always, advocacy for any cause cannot be about one day, it must be about one day at a time.

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