Kim Murphy is the Director of Operations for Community Supports/PATH Coordinator for the West Virginia Mental Health Consumer Association. She sat down with HRC’s Jeff Olivet to share her insights about the importance of outreach to people who otherwise might slip through the cracks.
JO: Why is outreach important?
KM: A lot of folks don’t know about services. If someone’s out there, sometimes they just need a helping hand and knowledge that someone cares. By doing outreach, we’re able to go out and reach folks who aren’t ready to come in. We can give them a survival pack. Then when they’re ready, they’ll come in. When you’re out there, you feel like there’s no hope, that this is the end. Once someone gives you a chance to come back into society, then you can begin on that journey of recovery. That’s what outreach is about.
JO: What drives you to do this work?
KM: As someone who experienced homelessness before, I had someone reach out to me. I wanted to give back. That drives me. Sometimes people who are on the road to recovery come back and say “thank you” or “I couldn’t have done this without you.” One individual I knew was using a lot of alcohol. At the time, he was not ready to stop. Two years later, he came back. He had stopped using. He had his own apartment. He credits our program for giving him the hope and tools to start that journey. That drives me.
JO: Talk about the role of consumers in reaching out to others.
KM: From the life experience of someone who’s been there, done that, an individual you’re reaching out to can feel that you’ve been where they are. They can see where you are today. We’re living examples of hope and recovery.
JO: How would you define success in outreach?
KM: Success to me is when an individual comes off the street—into a shelter, a transitional home, a house. It’s when they have a roof over their head and start that recovery process. When we did the National One Night Out, one person came off the street that night. We got him into a shelter and got him back to his home town the next day. He ended up connecting with his family again. That’s success.
JO: What sustains you, gives you strength to keep you doing this work?
KM: I’ve been there. I know that recovery is possible. What we’re doing is a piece of it. To be a part of that keeps me going. In my heart, this is something I have a great deal of passion about. That keeps me going. Seeing the look on the face of someone who has come off the street and had that shower they hadn’t had in a long time—that hot meal. The look on their faces…that keeps me going.
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