After a couple of years driving a beat-up car that was becoming a money pit, Donald went car shopping on his birthday in February.
After test driving different options throughout the day, he chose a model he had wanted for a long time – a Ford Fusion. The 2008 car has low mileage, a sun roof, leather interior, and heated seats. But it offers an even more important quality – it is reliable.
“It felt good,” Donald said of buying the car.
Jenny McColgan, the assistant team leader for Places for People’s Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) Team, accompanied Donald during his car search. She said it was fun being in the passenger’s seat beside Donald. “Typically, I’m the one driving,” she joked.
As an Army veteran, Donald receives income from the military. He has also maintained stable employment for the past four years. His payee helped him save enough to buy a car.
Buying the car was another major step on the way to independence and empowerment for Donald, who spent 18 years in the Fulton State Hospital.
After leaving the hospital, he moved to the FACT Cottages and began services with Places for People’s FACT Team – one of only three the country.
He lived in the FACT Cottages for almost three years before moving last fall into a house of his own in South St. Louis City.
Having a reliable car will allow Donald to get to work on time, and will also save him money that had been going to repairs.
He credits his current successes on “Time, trial and error.”
Donald was born in Mississippi and lived there until he was 4. He grew up in Webster Groves and entered the Army at 17. Donald first experienced symptoms of mental illness while serving in the Army in Germany. He received an honorable medical discharge.
Donald has been involved with the Veterans Affairs and Department of Mental Health for more than 30 years.
He said his treatment team at Places for People helps him to “be aware of my symptoms. They keep me on point.”
Donald manages his own medications and attends therapy and substance use groups.
“I just try to maintain,” he said.
In his free time, Donald likes to cook, spend time with his brother, and watch science fiction shows and movies.
He often offers rides to others to attend groups in the community.
McColgan said it was a great experience to see Donald buy the car. “I’m proud and honored to come alongside him and see the growth just in the short time we’ve worked together. Donald has worked really hard to get where he is.”
Donald’s next goal is to become his own payee. For now, he is enjoying figuring out the bells and whistles of his new car. He is grateful for the support of his team and the Places for People community.
“I have a problem with trust,” Donald said. Working with the team and therapy groups at Places for People has helped him with that. “I know that people do care about me.”