Information Hub / BlogWhat Is The Sound Of Unmet Need

All too frequently, the Referral Coordinator at A Home Within receives calls like this one from Sam*. He has aged out of our foster care system and is now homeless and struggling with drug and alcohol use.

Sam:  You told me to call you if anything changed in my situation. I’m having a really hard time right now. I am living out of my car, I’m trying to stop using drugs and have lost my best friend. I know I’m not at bottom yet, but I can see myself getting there and I don’t know where to start. 

A Home Within (AHW):
I’m really glad you called. I’m afraid that right now we still don’t have an available therapist we can match you with.
Let’s see what we can do to get you some support more immediately. Do you currently have a place to sleep?


Photo courtesy of Don Hankins.

Yes, I’m alternating between sleeping in my car and at a friend’s. 

OK, let’s connect you with some housing resources so you can have more options. Can you describe your current drug and alcohol intake?

Sam: No hard drugs, but I’m drinking a lot and smoking pot. The problem is, every time I do, I feel terrible about it and ashamed that this is how I am getting by. I don’t really have a home to go to, which it makes it harder. I can see myself having some kind of an addiction in the future if I don’t change things. And I’ve been trying. I have. it’s just not working. 

OK, what I’m going to do is give you the telephone numbers of some places that specialize in substance use. They may not be long-term services, but can be helpful until we can get you matched with one of our long-term therapists. How does that sound?

Do you know how long I’ll have to wait to get a therapist?

AHW: I’m sorry, but at this point I really don’t know. We’ll do the best we can.


Photo courtesy of scribbletaylor.

Sam: OK, thanks. I wouldn’t have known where to go.
Someone gave me your number and said I had to call you. I’m so glad that I know this place exists, now. I can’t do this without help.

Sadly, Sam’s predicament is too common. The unmet mental health needs of foster children and youth are extraordinary. By some estimates only 25% receive treatment. This year we have been able to match 50% of those referred to us. That’s better, but we still have work to do.

*Name has been changed to protect client identity and confidentiality.

By Toni Heineman