Bill Fosterr, who spends his mornings as a volunteer receptionist for the Mental Health Association in Tulsa and attends mass daily, hasn't always had it so good. About fourteen years ago, Bill was delusional when he found himself in police custody in Illinois.
Bill leads residents in a song at the Mental Health Association in Tulsa's annual holiday party.
Bill lives with schizophrenia and had just completed a two-year tenure as a middle school English teacher at a school near Chicago when he lost control of his illness and was arrested. He hitchhiked out of Illinois after his release from jail destined for California, when Route 66 led him to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Someone from a local church gave him a place to stay for the night and the next thing Bill remembers is feeling delusional and pacing in front of a Tulsa convenience store. He was arrested again. This time he wound up at the state hospital where he stayed for 10 months. Bill was discharged to the YMCA and went to a local mental health treatment facility. In no time, he was back at the state hospital.
What changed Bill's life was learning about the Mental Health Association's Walker Hall housing program for people with mental illness. He applied and was accepted into the group home that employs innovative strategies to stabilize clients. For Bill, Walker Hall was a new beginning. "That was one of the great days of my life," says Bill. "It was when my recovery began." Walker Hall receives a portion of its operating funds from HUD.
Bill stayed at Walker Hall for two years and then moved into the Baltimore Studio Apartments, an independent living complex operated by the Mental Health Association. He's been there 9 years now, and he still loves it. While Baltimore Apartments no longer receives HUD funding, it was purchased with a HUD acquisition grant.
Bill spends his mornings as a volunteer receptionist.
Bill stays very involved in the community. He has served on the Mental Health Association's Board of Directors, and he has volunteered for the agency for eight years where he mentors others on the road to recovery and helps with special projects. Going from being homeless and delusional to being stable with a roof over his head was a wonderful thing for Bill. He said, "The security of having a place-just the knowledge of knowing I have a place to return makes me a lot more stable. When I think of it, I count my blessings and believe me, that is every single day. You don't know what it's like to have all of your belongs in a sack, which gets stolen periodically. It's so great to have a safe place I can call my own."
The Mental Health Association's award winning housing program will be featured
as one small part of the national "A Place to Call Home" conference.
Recognizing the important role housing plays in the recovery of people with
mental illness, the Mental Health Association in Tulsa, in conjunction with
HUD and a number of national leadership partners, will host the 2004 National Zarrow Mental Health Symposium (www.mhat.org/zarrow/overview.htm) - A Place to Call Home: Exploring
innovative approaches to housing for people with mental illness. Conference
dates are September 29 - October 1, 2004.
Bill Fosterr leads residents in a song at the Mental Health Association in Tulsa's annual holiday party.
As a volunteer receptionist for the Mental Health Association in Tulsa, Bill Fosterr reviews the day's call-ins with staff member Angie Neuendorf.