Woman carrying boxes while moving in to her new apartment in supportive housing to help her mental health

The Role of Supportive Housing on Mental Health: ‘It’s My Own Haven’ 

Kathy* was homeless until she moved into a townhouse at Coolidge Place Apartments, a 64-unit affordable housing complex in Oak Park.  

The stability of having a place to call home gives her peace of mind and makes her feel healthier, as she’s no longer battling the constant fear of having to find a place to sleep for the night.  

“My lifestyle is more stable. Everything is close,” Kathy said. “I’m able to get to my appointments. And I feel healthier.”  

Coolidge Place is a complex made of townhomes, ranch-style apartments, green space and a community center. Tenants must be at or below 60% of the area median income. The development opened in 2020 and is a partnership between Lighthouse and Southwest Solutions. Residents of Coolidge Place work with a case manager who helps them keep up with appointments, schedule rides, coordinate grocery deliveries, take care of day-to-day tasks and steps up in times of crisis to ensure everyone is safe and taken care of. 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation are helping to support the nonprofit with a Housing for Health Equity grant, due to the connection between good housing and good health. The type of services offered at Coolidge Place are known as supportive housing – which helps people with complex needs like mental illness and substance use disorders as well as those who are homeless to find and obtain long-term affordable housing.  

Funds from Blue Cross and the BCBSM Foundation have been dedicated to helping residents access health coverage and care, including medical and behavioral health as well as nutrition assistance and other services. The Housing for Health Equity grant supported residents who live the in 16 units reserved for medically complex residents. Twenty-two residents live in these units, including two children. All of the residents have incomes below $10,999 annually. 

A recent case study found supportive housing was effective in reducing homelessness and emergency room visits, as well as improving mental health. For many individuals who live at Coolidge Place, having a stable place to call home has made the biggest difference in their ability to gain access to transportation to be able to keep up with their medical appointments.  

Robert* said he’s able to see his doctors more regularly as a result of living at Coolidge Place than he did when he was homeless. This is important for him, as he is struggling to manage chronic pain; as well as heart issues and anxiety and depression.  

“It would be worse if I was homeless,” Robert said. “I see the doctors a little more because it’s easier to get transportation.”  

Lynn*, who said she is bipolar and can have psychotic episodes, said she is doing well at Coolidge Place because she is able to live by herself – which she needs for her mental health.  

“This is my own haven; there is no one there but me,” said Lynn. “I have my own little space. It’s a good thing for me; I need that.”  

For Maria*, Coolidge Place offers safety and the next step to getting back on her feet. She recently took her two young children and left an abusive relationship, and was in need of housing after staying at a domestic violence shelter.  

“Now, the children have their room and I have mine. We don’t have to walk on eggshells anymore,” Maria said, comparing how safe she feels now to when she was in her past relationship.   

As she works to rebuild her life, Maria said the supportive housing has helped the PTSD, anxiety and depression that she was struggling with when she was in the abusive relationship.  

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the residents. 

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Photo credit: Getty Images

 

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