February 10, 2012|By Jodie Needle, Special Correspondent
They are often homeless or couch surfers — young men who sleep on one friend's sofa one night and another on the next.
These are young men who have aged out of the foster care system and often have nowhere else to turn. But one place to call home is Wilson Gardens, which recently received $30,000 in funding from the Jim Moran Foundation.
Wilson Gardens is a residential apartment facility in Hollywood for men ages 18 to 22 who are battling mental illness as they transition into adulthood.
"These are kids who were left behind. They have no parent to go home to, but now they do," said Michele Jacobson, crisis and residential coordinator for Henderson Behavioral Health, which runs Wilson Gardens. "We give them that parent."
The facility also provides men with guidance, support and one-bedroom apartments. Henderson, a nonprofit behavioral health system, provides an on-site residential manager for the men, as well as access to counselors.
"Wilson Gardens is a really innovative program that addresses kids aging out of the foster care system who, without us, would not have any other support," said Dr. Steven Ronik, Henderson's chief executive officer.
Wilson Gardens also receives funding from the Children's Services Council of Broward County and Broward Housing Solutions, which subsidizes the rent, Ronik said.
The young men either have jobs or attend school, and they must attend weekly community meetings to listen to and support one another. The community approach appeals to the Jim Moran Foundation, which has provided about $100,000 toward the program over the last few years, said Melanie Burgess, executive director.
"These young men need somebody to nurture them and say, 'You know what, I believe in you, and you might fail, but I'm going to be there to lift you up,'" Burgess said. "They are very gentle souls who have lived harsh lives."
The facility provides case management, life skills training, independent living skills and a home.
"This is a safe harbor to prepare themselves to be self-sufficient," Burgess said. "I believe that this provides the stability that may have been missing in their lives."
"This allows them to learn to trust, to learn to heal, and learn to make connections to people in the world," she said.
For more information, visit http://www.hendersonbehavioralhealth.org.