Five years ago a dream was formed to build a self-sustaining, standalone living community for people who have physical and mental health conditions.
They would live in these apartments, pay rent, work and learn to support themselves while also receiving care.
With the help of many foundations, businesses and everyday people, the dream became a reality in June 2015 when the Gulf Bend Center’s Wellness Community opened with 32 one-bedroom apartments and a community for learning and growing.
Since it opened, more than 100 people have lived there, helping not only themselves but also about 700 family members and friends.
While the wellness community has gone about its business of helping the target populations, many people have sadly forgotten the important role it is serving.
It still needs the Crossroads’ support.
While the community was developed to be self-sustaining, each year Gulf Bend subsidizes it by about $250,000. Gulf Bend continues to seek grants to help fund the community, but the level of funding initially thought to be there has not materialized.
Gulf Bend remains committed to supporting the community. It is not in danger of closing, but the reality is the subsidizing could eventually take its toll.
It needs continued financial support from the Crossroads community.
The Crossroads community cannot let the Wellness Community or Gulf Bend get to the point that it has to make that dreaded decision.
The Wellness Community is a solution to a big problem in our city. If it were to close, the community would only move backward in the work it is doing to help people with mental illness and the homeless, who, unfortunately, are often one in the same.
The encouraging aspect of the Wellness Community is as residents get on their feet, have a job and can afford to live independently, they can move out and make room for another resident to begin transforming their life.
This type of service is needed now more than ever as the number of homeless and people with mental illness continues to grow and the number of shelters with available beds stays stagnant.
As Gulf Bend, the largest provider of mental health and intellectual and development services in the Crossroads, continues to search out funding avenues, foundations, businesses and individuals need to reach out and offer the financial support, as we did when this life-changing business model was first announced.
This is the only business of its type in Texas, officials have said. As the funding gets stabilized, it could be a model for similar centers to be developed across the country.
State agencies that offer funding to businesses like Gulf Bend need to adjust their regulations to allow for progressive programs like this to be funded.
They are working to help residents have a better independent life. That is an incredibly rewarding goal to work toward.
Gulf Bend was able to raise the $4.15 million needed to build the facility with help from grants and donations. It should be able to do the same for continued annual support.
To accomplish this, private philanthropic trusts should also update their rules to expand the types of programs they can fund. Helping to build such a facility is great, but just as important is helping the business sustain its growth.
The same is true for businesses and individuals; add the Wellness Community to your giving list.
The Gulf Bend board is eager to get the word out to the community about the community’s successes. It has developed a presentation to take to businesses, civic groups and anyone else who wants to learn about it. It is worth the phone call to set up the appointment.
As you consider the level of support you want to have, remember the words of former Gulf Bend Executive Director Don Polzin in 2015, when the community was opening, as they are still true today.
“It’s just getting started. It’s going to make a big difference in a lot of folks’ lives,” he said. “It’s important to our community.”