CLARE|MATRIX is doing its part to help the homeless recover in the City of Santa Monica, which has one of the highest concentrations of homelessness in Los Angeles County. The organization’s residential treatment programs provide a vital safety net and ladder to recovery for homeless individuals suffering from substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders. In fact, about 70% of its residential treatment participants were homeless when they entered the program.

To help make an impact on homelessness throughout L.A.’s Westside, CLARE|MATRIX is being funded by the Grants for the Benefit of Homeless Individuals (GBHI). Made possible by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the grant enables CLARE|MATRIX to provide local homeless men and women with a residential treatment program as well as extended supportive services, such as an intensive outpatient program, mental health counseling, vocational training and affordable housing placement. GBHI partners with a coordinated network of community-based organizations and social service agencies to help participants successfully transition into society.

“With most treatment programs, once you’re discharged, you’re on your own,” said Jolan Dawson, GBHI Project Director. “Our program is designed to work with participants for an extended period of time – for up to a year – so they can one day lead self-sufficient lives.”

To find participants for the program, the GBHI team regularly combs the streets in search of the homeless, like encampments and alleyways, sometimes as early as 6 a.m. “Most of the homeless we find won’t come to us for services. So we go where they are,” said Jolan. “And the best way to locate them is to find where they’re sleeping.”

This grassroots outreach approach resembles CLARE’s origins in the late 1960s when a group of sober alcoholics began bringing food, blankets and a message of recovery to homeless alcoholics on the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice. Today, with programs like GBHI, the organization aims to put homeless individuals on a sustainable path of recovery by providing them with access to a comprehensive range of services that gives them a compassionate community of support.

Single mother Carissa Page can attest to GBHI’s strategic efforts to get their homeless participants back on their feet. Carissa entered the program in April after hitting rock bottom from using meth during the last months of her two-year odyssey of couch surfing and living on the streets. Her substance use disorder began in 2012, when she turned to alcohol to anesthetize the pain of losing her grandmother from a stroke only a year following the death of her own mother from ovarian cancer. Her alcoholism led to three DUIs and two jail stints that caused her to lose custody of her two young daughters. With no family or resources to lean on, she became homeless, further damaging her self-esteem. “I felt the shame from how people would look at me on the streets,” remembers Carissa. “Just walking into the grocery store to take a bird bath in their restroom felt so embarrassing.”

When an old friend from high school ran into her and realized her struggles, he encouraged her to reach out to CLARE|MATRIX. Fortunately, the advice came at a time when she had reached her breaking point. She made the call within days, enrolling in the residential treatment program two weeks later.

Since graduating to a sober living house in late June, Carissa feels like the help she’s receiving from GBHI’s supportive services is giving her a new lease on life. She’s already lined up two job interviews, and she’s working with the judicial system to gain parental visitation rights. She also participates in weekly group and one-on-one counseling sessions to help her identify and break the behavioral patterns that contributed to her substance use. “This program has been amazing,” says Carissa. “There have been people here who have loved me, even at times when I didn’t love myself.”