Michael is an artist and dedicated social worker who has helped transform the lives of dozens of TLCS clients.
He also used to be a client.
Michael started his journey with us when he signed up for an outpatient care program (HRC) funded by Sacramento County. At that point, Michael had been regularly rotating between mental health hospitals, shelters, and board & care homes. After years of effort, and through the help of supportive services, he has his own apartment and a full-time job. Now he’s devoted to helping others on their path to recovery and self-sufficiency.
“Experiencing Success is a class I created for people who are chronically mentally ill and chronically homeless at TLCS. I teach art classes where I encourage people to take risks, to take chances, to make mistakes. We deal with aspects of hope, fear of success and failure, and how to break down those things so each person can experience more success. We get pretty nitty-gritty. I help them apply for the benefits and services they need. I help them get into housing and recovery, and get a primary care doctor. I help teach them how to live if they’re open for it. If they aren’t, I try to help them believe they can have a life that’s worth living.
I’ve been mentally ill my whole life. I tried to get done with this life with drugs in my late teens/early 20s. I always fought to control the voices that no one else heard and I was in and out of hospitals a lot. My mom would always bring me art supplies and encouraged me to pursue my art. After she died, I had my longest, most severe stretch of psychosis. I tried living on my own but I didn’t do so well. I tried to get a job at Mervyn’s in the women’s section once, but I started hearing evil voices in the music they played. I didn’t return to work the second day. I applied for jobs, but when people learned about my condition they’d throw my application in the round file. I wasn’t able to live on my own as an adult. I felt like a useless deadbeat.
In 2003 I applied for an outpatient care program and they gave me grace. It was hard getting my humanity back, to feel like I was equal with everybody else. I learned how to wear the right clothes. I started painting again. I got my life back. Now I can afford my own roof. I’m independent. I can invest a little bit into mountain biking and fly fishing and do my artwork. I feel like I’m part of the human race again.
There’s a lot I want to do before I die. I want the clients I meet to get excited about their recovery, their potential, their beauty, their amazing strengths. My aim is to help them no longer rely on us. I also want more [for myself]. I want to create my own business. I want to sell my artwork. Art is in everything that is human. And if I can use the talent that God has given me to generate income so I can help more people, I can’t think of a better use of that talent.”
Michael and his clients painted a mural for Wide Open Walls in 2017.