“Fountain House is like a support system, where if I don’t come for a week, I kind of feel depressed. It’s like a charging station for me.” If you have the pleasure of running in to Leah at Fountain House, you immediately feel the “charge” she speaks of. An avid biker, animal lover and wellness advocate, Leah has taken advantage of the services that Fountain House offers, providing her with skills that extend to life outside of the clubhouse.
Leah initially came to Fountain House in 2008, but she didn’t stay for long. “At that point, it wasn't for me...I loved the people...but it wasn't for me. I wasn't very social." When she reapplied to Fountain House in 2013, she returned with a mission: “I was older and I had a goal. I wanted to live independently."
Today, Leah has reached her goal of independent living, and so much more. In 2013, she moved out of her childhood home thanks to Fountain House’s supportive housing program for people with serious mental illness. Since 1958, Fountain House has worked to create one of the largest supportive housing networks in New York State, connecting nearly every member to a stable living environment. Each year, our housing program supports approximately 500 men and women with serious mental illness.
After three years in supportive housing, Leah took her next step on the journey to independence and was given a stipend to find her own apartment with a roommate. After a year of experiencing a new living situation, where she took the initiative to find the apartment, manage her bills, and care for a pet cat, she was ready to take yet another big step. Leah entered herself in the NYC housing lottery and in early 2018 she won a beautiful apartment to rent within 7 blocks of Fountain House. “Without Fountain House, I would still be living with my mom. The stipend provided the opportunity I needed to enter the lottery.”
While Leah worked towards her housing goal, she simultaneously participated in Fountain House’s Wellness Unit: “I need Fountain House, and I need to be active, so I need to be here to be active.” Fountain House’s Wellness Unit focuses on integrating healthy practices into the daily lives of members, including nutritional cooking, exercise groups and wellness classes. Today, Leah continues to be an active participant of the program. Besides the daily activities that she engages in at the clubhouse, such as leading tours, Leah volunteers her time at the Fountain House Farm: “I love going to the farm because learning something new makes me feel good. I never thought I’d have a drill in my hand helping to build a chicken coop!”
But if you ask Leah what makes her feel best, she has only one answer: biking. Twice a week in Central Park, she dedicates a few hours of her day to tandem bike riding with InTandem. "It’s a sport that I can’t fail at." With self-proclaimed poor balance, Leah hasn’t yet mastered riding a bike alone. But, with tandem biking, Leah has the ability to do something she never thought she would be able to do. “People get runner's high, but I get biker's high…I’ve learned what it takes to push through the “walls” you hit on a hard ride. People also say I’m much happier since discovering biking!” Since beginning biking, Leah has finished two Five Borough Bike Tours, and formed many friendships. Leah aspires to one day form a biking club at Fountain House, so that she can share with fellow members the activity that changed her life. “I’ve gotten a lot more confident…now I know I can do anything if I set my mind to it."