Helping the Homeless with Mental Illness

Susan Harris is a social worker who literally takes to the streets to find people experiencing homelessness to get them help.

Harris works as a homeless outreach specialist for Catholic Charities based out of Bullhead City, Ariz., but her special focus is on Lake Havasu City and other areas in Mohave County. Her passion to serve the homeless came from experiences close to home.

“In 2009, a family member was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, so the social work field has personal and professional significance in my life,” said Harris. Harris said her hands-on experience with a family member included numerous intakes, treatment plans and crisis care situation, which served to prepare her for what her clients might have to go through. Harris is also prepared for her job from ongoing training from the National Association of Mental Illness and an education in business administration.

As Harris serves homeless individuals that have been diagnosed with serious mental illness (SMI), she wants to make their transition from homelessness to finding a home as easy as possible. In her role, she seeks out the homeless in Mohave County and then guides these individuals to services offered by Catholic Charities.

“I feel well-equipped to guide any homeless person from a life on the streets and into the services that Catholic Charities can offer, and I am honored to have the confidence to work with SMI homeless individuals through my personal experience,” said Harris.

Through the use of a valued team of volunteers and local services, Harris is more easily able to complete outreach to the community. Organizing collaborations with local agencies and volunteers, the homeless population in Mohave County is currently provided with more consistent supplies of food, water and shelter.

Harris has witnessed park clean-ups, a revitalized homeless day center run by Catholic Charities and miraculous interventions.

“My job is made more effective due to the dedication of the collaboration of volunteers and local services. I feel very honored to work with others that share a passion for helping the homeless population,” said Harris.