Community Housing Network: Duane Ott

Duane Ott is teaching himself how to carve wood and holds a piece of wood he found that he says will be an “interesting project.” Every once in a while a special donation shows up at Community Housing Network. “It’s not ever much,” says donor Duane Ott, “but CHN has made all the difference for me living the kind of life I choose to live versus the life of abject poverty. I can’t remember how I got along before CHN.” Duane, 56, is a program participant in the Shelter Plus Care Program. That means he receives housing assistance plus mental health services from a partner agency.

He was diagnosed with mental illness when he was in his late 2-s. He knew something was wrong, but he didn’t know what it was or what to do about it. Duane said his employer, the National Park Service, apparently knew it well. “I established a work record and then things started going haywire for me,” he remembers. “They said, ‘We think you should move on.’” He returned to Michigan and moved in with family members. “I can remember the symptoms. I had no interaction with other people and spent the days lying quietly in bed and grieving about how bad things were,” he says.

Duane was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder and psycho affective disorder. He was involved in a treatment program when he first heard about Community Housing Network. With housing assistance and mental health services he admits to coming a long way. The days of quietly lying in bed are long gone and he hopes they don’t return again, but life isn’t always easy for Duane.

When his psychiatrist, who Duane says gave him a lifeline, died suddenly in January, Duane’s life took a turn. “I had a hard time distinguishing reality from fantasy.” He remembers sheriff’s deputies arriving at his apartment and escorting him to the hospital. It was nearly two months before he returned to his tidy one-bedroom apartment and his part-time job at a gas station down the street. He said he could rely on Tanya Madsen, CHN’s Shelter Plus Care program manager. “She’s so stable and has always been one to offer a reasonable view of the way things are.”

Walking in his building and in his neighborhood, he now cheerfully greets those he sees and offers a kind word to others about enjoying the beautiful day. He has come a long way from his personal isolation. “I’m so indebted to CHN for all the support they give me. They have been a godsend. So I try to save what I can to send in. I know they will use that to help someone else.”