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Pathways to housing the homeless

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"I think that's a deeply internalized image for me," he continues, "an inclusive and helpful society where we all live, each with our own gifts to contribute to the pool."

Wicker chairs and flowers

With at least two staff visits each month – and usually more – Pathways strives for that sense of inclusion, while encouraging the autonomy of independent living. Apartments are scattered throughout Manhattan and Westchester: Congregated sites, says Tsemberis, can breed stigma and an institutional feel.

There's nothing institutional about Jane Whiley's apartment. It is full of wicker chairs and tables painted all shades of green, red, and orange, arranged with astonishing symmetry.

Family pictures, brightly colored plastic fruit, and iced-tea bottles crammed with artificial flowers crowd each surface; homemade collages line the walls. Above the kitchen sink, 18 mugs dangle from hooks on black-and-white checked wallpaper.

Homeless after losing her home of 31 years around the time she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Ms. Whiley spent eight months in a women's shelter before hearing of Pathways at the Harlem YMCA.

She now works part time as a Pathways receptionist and part time at the Ricco/Maresca Gallery on 20th Street, which features self-taught artists, many of whom are considered to be mentally ill.

'Out of the madness'

When Craig Murray introduces himself over Pepperidge Farm cookies and a beef knish, he sounds as though he's at Alcoholics Anonymous. "My name is Craig," he says earnestly, "and I'm dually diagnosed. That means I have a mental illness and a substance-abuse problem."

A heavy man with wide brown eyes, measured speech, and an easy smile, he speaks eagerly. After six years in a state hospital battling cocaine addiction, he heard of Pathways through a friend, and now lives in Washington Heights.

"Pathways came and scooped me out of the madness," he says, "found that I was articulate, open-minded, civic-minded – a nice person, aside from what was documented in some chart I never saw."

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