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AmeriCorps member serving those in need
AmeriCorps members helps community member when they need it most
By: Jessica Fisher-MCAH
My name is Jessica Fisher, and I serve as an AmeriCorps member for Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness AmeriCorps program at Community Action House (CAH) in Holland. I serve on the Street Outreach Team. For the last several months, I have been immersing myself in the community; meeting and helping community members who are unhoused. At the start of my service, I met a guest Al. Al shared with me some of his history that led him to living outside. I began to understand that one of the biggest barriers Al faces every day is his mental health and suicidal tendencies.
One morning, when I was out at a community center, Al came to me in crisis with emergent suicidal thoughts. He stated how he called members of my team and was frustrated that none of them had answered. I explained that my team cares about his wellbeing but unfortunately does not have the resources to be a 24/7 service but there are other avenues for that in our community. That morning, Al felt reluctant to call a crisis number because he did not feel comfortable with them, and he felt like they could not help him. I spoke with Al about how he was feeling and eventually he agreed to let me call a local crisis line with him and he requested that I call Holland Police Department as well. With my assistance, Al called and spoke to a trained mental health professional who was able to serve him with the proper resources and training. He was then able to speak with the police, and he felt comfortable enough to allow me to step away and have them transport him to the hospital for further assistance.
My team debriefed after this incident and discussed many similar experiences with Al in the past month. We realized that Al was calling us multiple times a week at all hours as a crisis line. We wanted to come up with a better way to serve Al and help him with the barriers in his way to stable housing. For the next month that followed, I empowered Al to use proper resources in the community depending on the time or the need. Al now calls local crisis lines and professionals when he needs them, so that he isn’t contacting only CAH and unable to reach anyone when he is experiencing a mental health crisis. I have seen Al shift from only being comfortable working with my team, to feeling comfortable and confident to use other resources and organizations. With my help, AL has expanded his whole network of support.