It was about three years ago when I was dropped off at the Lawrence Community Shelter with nothing but the clothes on my back. I had no friends, no family, no one that I could stay with until I got back on my feet, and I had been in jail for a crime that happened during a severe mental breakdown.
I stayed at the shelter for a while in a deep depressive episode, where I couldn’t even find the strength to get out of bed each day. The team there worked with me and gave me the space that I needed until I felt like I was ready to start taking back my life. I was attending court-mandated anger management classes when on that day, the instructor looked at me and said, “You’re not angry, Shauna, you just need better help.”
That was when I was finally connected with the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and came in for an in-take. At first, I’ll be honest, I struggled. I struggled with the psychiatrist I was connected to for services, but also with the rest of the team. Until one day I met Sarah Novotny, a case manager on the Homeless Outreach Team. Sarah was not only a game-changer, but a life-changer. She has a way of being persistent in helping me, but not overwhelming to the point that I wanted to stop services. I was trying to navigate the housing system for about a year by myself before I came to Bert Nash and was so close to giving up because of how hard it was.
Sarah along with the rest of the team at Bert Nash worked with me to secure safe, affordable housing and even helped cover the cost of the deposit and few months’ rent so that I could get my bearings and secure a job. I think the problem is a lot of people think that you can just wake up one day get a job and find a place to live, but it’s more than that.
By myself, I would have failed. What some people don’t understand is that with mental illness you don’t always process things immediately or sometimes ever at all. But Sarah and the team at Bert Nash gave me the tools to become a stronger person and the desire to want to be better, and for that I am grateful.