News and Press
Help for the homeless: Lookout Mountain Community Services partners with local landlords to offer housing options
By Theresa Varos, director of marketing for LMCS
For nearly half a century individuals with mental health, developmental disabilities and/or substance abuse issues have had cost-effective services provided by Lookout Mountain Community Services.
Since 1969, LMCS has been a source of clinical and support services for adults, children and adolescents with a wide range of behavioral health challenges. The most familiar of those offerings are psychiatric evaluations, medication management and both individual and group therapy. These services are provided at four outpatient clinics. LMCS also makes home and community-based services available with the aim of helping individuals improve their quality of life.
Recognizing the need to expand housing options for adults with mental illness, LMCS applied for a Shelter Plus Care grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and in October 2013 LMCS was awarded more than $ 1 million to provide safe, affordable housing for qualified individuals enrolled in LMCS services. For them, finding a stable source of shelter is a critical first step toward achieving health, healing and recovery.
Tonya Sired, the agency’s housing coordinator, related how one of the first Shelter Plus Care residents described how the program has transformed his life.
She reported that the young man had a history of incarcerations, being released with no place to live, violating his probation due to not being able to overcome the challenges of homelessness, then returning to jail.
He said his daily life before being placed in his new apartment was consumed with stealing things from a dumpster that he needed to survive for the day while trying to not get caught, constantly searching for his next place to sleep, and reconnecting with unhealthy relationships from his past because he had no other choice to survive. He said that he had felt trapped in a perpetual negative way of living that included drugs, stealing, and hurting other people and himself just to make it through each day.
Sired said that since moving to his new apartment, he reported a sense of peacefulness that he said was hard to explain.
His days are no longer filled with searching and stealing for his next bite of food or a place to sleep safely. People now welcome him rather than avoiding him because of the way he was groomed or dressed.
He is learning how to become independent for the first time in his life and says he feels like a ‘real person’ again.
This resident has been embraced by his community, has joined the choir at a local church, hosted Bible studies where he is able to hear other people’s recovery stories and for the first time in his life is able to invite others into his home.
This young man’s story could be repeated throughout the area served by LMCS — Walker, Dade, Chattooga and Catoosa counties — since according to Georgia's Department of Community Affairs, it is estimated that 62,172 people experienced literal homelessness statewide during 2011. Of those, about 2,046 live in these four counties
While there are plenty in need of shelter, and grant money is available to defray costs of housing, the inventory of suitable rental units is small.
Therefore, LMCS is looking to partner with local landlords by renting appropriate properties for the Shelter Plus Care program. One of the qualifications for the program is that participants must be in a shelter or a place deemed unsuitable for human habitation. When an apartment is found, most Shelter Plus Care residents lack the essential housewares and furniture needed to make a house a home.
While LMCS does not need furniture, donations of essential household items such as pots and pans, dishware, utensils, paper products and linens are appreciated.
Landlords who want to work with LMCS to provide rentable housing, civic groups, or individuals interested in assisting with furnishing these apartments may call Sired at 706-806-1222.
“This program is not only beneficial for the individuals it serves,” said Jan Lewis, director of Recovery Services for LMCS. “It gives our community an opportunity to help others achieve health, healing, and recovery.”
Lookout Mountain Community Services offers treatment at four outpatient clinics and provides a slew of services to individuals in four counties.
Fort Oglethorpe Outpatient Clinic
1875 Fant Dr.
LaFayette Outpatient Clinic
501 Mize St.
Summerville Outpatient Clinic
83 state Highway 48
Trenton Outpatient Clinic
13570 North Main St.