Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

Rick Vanstory Resource Center

Name of Innovative Program: 
A Peer Facilitated, Mental Health and Homeless Shelter Program
Sponsoring Organization
Rick Vanstory Resource Center
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Allen Conover
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Project Description: 
The Rick Vanstory Resource Center (RVRC) manages an emergency shelter program for homeless consumers with severe mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders. The program is completely facilitated by peers. We utilize a peer hierarchy structure with designated peer positions to manage the daily operations of treatment such as coordinator, crew leader, logician, etc. The shelter program participants typically attend the daily activities conducted at RVRC for homeless individuals from 7:00a.m to 4:00 .m. and sign into the shelter from 4:00p.m until 7:00a.m the following day at which time they can resume their participation in the day treatment activities.  The initial group activity or daily summary is conducted from 4:00p.m to 4:45p.m and facilitated by the peer coordinator again a shelter program participant. Subsequent group activities are scheduled on a half hour and/or hourly structured basis. The educational activities consist of presentations or discussions on an array of topics including anxiety, depression, mental health, addition, relapse, sober support systems etc. To reiterate, these activities are facilitated by peers. Uniquely, the agency clinical director, a Master degree professional who is a certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC) serves as a supplemental support system for the peer-directed structure.   
Creativity and Innovation: 

RVRC had a desire to provide more than a bed. We seized the opportunity to design and implement a program to enhance our existing structure by incorporating activities that were therapeutically structured. We embraced the concept of "each one teach one" by utilizing the true nature of  peer services. We recognized the strengths and experiences of our consumers and embraced their unique ability to provide valuable insight, compassion and empathy.  RVRC aimed to empower consumers by empowering them to make "real decisions" that impacted their life and the life of others. We recognize the power of lived experience and refuse to downplay these experiences and/or elevate professional experience above peer experience. Our use of peers elucidates congruency far beyond the basic understanding of the intended concept. In essence, we believe homeless individuals that suffer from mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders are more likely to impact others with similar backgrounds.  

The RVRC Chief Executive Officer is a diagnosed schizophrenic who has experienced years of confinement in the Delaware Psychiatric Center. Upon release he was homeless and ended up in an emergency shelter. He later transitioned to living in the transitional housing component of the shelter and worked for the program as a live-in resident. He secured employment as an outreach worker for the Projects Assistance for Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program.  Subsequently he partnered with a mental health agency with whom he was employed to develop the RVRC. He has been the CEO since its inception. Under his direction RVRC was awarded 9,000 to start the project. The  budget later increased from 200,000 to 450,000. RVRC recently secured a contract with the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to manage the  PATH program .... the very same program for which the CEO worked as an outreach worker.   

RVRC has been funded by the Delaware Division of Substance and Mental Heath since 2009. These funds are to operate a day services and emergency shelter program for homeless, mentally ill and co-occurring disorder consumers.  We secured contracts with the Rockford Center and Meadowwood Hospital, both in-patient mental heath facilities to provide outreach sessions and to assist with transitioning their homeless consumers back into the community ... the partnership  is invaluable.   Once we implemented the revised shelter program structure, RVRC received on-going referrals from numerous service providers that witnessed the program’s activities while visiting their clients at the shelter program. Service providers have expressed their appreciation for our efforts to engage clients in therapeutic oriented activities which helps them to work more effectively with their clients while housed at RVRC. RVRC has attended several community based meetings to inform agencies of our program and has hosted numerous tours of RVRC. 



The current structure utilizes peer shelter participants as change agents.  There are no additional funds required to implement, manage or monitor the program's activities. RVRC adjusted the certified alcohol and drug counselor's schedule to provide clinical and programmatic support as appropriate. The master's level and CADC clinician position is that of supplemental support. The concept of utilizing peers as change agents is not unique within itself as l2 step self-help programs have utilized this concept with huge success.  Hence, replicability is easily obtained via this process. The strength of the concept and ability to replicate this process across racial, socio-economic, etc. lines is more easily understood when the model yields to a belief that people are capable of change and deserve to be empowered despite any assigned societal labels. The power of replication is in acknowledgment that this population, any population are capable of being true change agents.      

RVRC aims to effectively process our input into respectable output.  We desire to provide our consumers with the necessary services to assist them with their transition back into the community.   RVRC collects, tabulates and stores data via an excel spreadsheet. This aggregated data is utilized as feedback for the purpose of quality assurance. Our general tracking outcomes consist of the following:      1.What was the length of stay for each resident2. How many consumers participated in onsite GED classes.   3. How many consumers transitioned to transitional housing verses permanent housing4. What was the number of consumers that were medication compliance after a pre-post intake assessment5. How many consumers signed up and received Medicaid, SSI, General assistance, Food Stamps etc. 6. How many consumers were assigned an off-site case-worker7. How many consumers were mental heath verses co-occurring consumers8. How many consumers attend outside 12 step support meetings