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For One Resident, Mental Health Association’s New Facility Brings New Hope

Margot Moran, who had been living in her car, talks about what her new home means to her.

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Margot Moran, who was living in her car, now lives in one of the units in the Mental Health Association’s new 113,000-square-foot facility on Garden Street, called Building Hope. (Daniella Elghanayan photo)

Margot Moran recently moved into the Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara County’s new 113,000-square-foot facility on Garden Street, called Building Hope. The building includes staff offices, community and meeting space for clients and their families, and 51 units to provide affordable housing for clients and downtown workers.

The Mental Health Association received more than 300 applications for the 38 apartments designated for adults living with mental illness. Moran was selected and moved into her new home in December, just in time for the holidays.

Moran suffers from panic disorder, restless legs syndrome and depression.

Back-to-back incidents left her homeless and living in a car. She had two herniated discs, and had to take three months off work. Her second day back at work, someone hit and totaled her car, and she ripped tissue throughout her back as a result of the accident. She also hit her head, which caused a loss of speech and the development of dyslexia. She lost her secretarial job, and her fiancé died of a heart attack.

Question: What was your living situation before this?

Answer: I was homeless. Living on the streets, living in my car. Because I have panic disorder, it was just the absolute worst thing that could happen to me. I stopped eating because I was scared to eat, since there was nowhere for me to go to the bathroom. I was in terror.

Question: What was most challenging about your previous living situation?

Answer: I couldn’t even change my clothes because I’d be harassed by other people. Cars would park right next to me when I was trying to change. I started developing arthritis from sleeping in the car, and my situation just got worse and worse. I’m a very private person. … Now I have privacy.

Question: How do you feel about your new home?

Answer: It means life, it means hope. I open my door, and I just can’t believe it’s mine. It’s an incredible feeling of safety. … I can even cook. I open the door, and it’s home. It’s mine.

Question: What is your favorite thing about your new home?

Question: I have beautiful furniture, and my favorite thing is the gorgeous patio. I absolutely love trees, and my patio overlooks all these trees. It’s not just a house, it’s a treehouse. Sometimes I sit out there and just look at the trees, look at the view, and I can see the stars at night. It’s beautiful. I also have my own bathtub to soak in. It really helps with my fibromyalgia, because I have so much pain from my accident.

Question: What sorts of activities do you do at the facility? Do you participate in any of the programs?

Answer: The Fellowship Program, I go down there everyday. All my friends dropped me as soon as I became homeless. … I’m making friends who have been through this; they understand me, they don’t stigmatize me. I’m a new person now. When the lights went out the other week, a bunch of us came out of our units and stood out together, and just talked. Later on, one of the residents said, “I’m so happy the lights went out, because we got to know each other.” It was just so sweet.

Daniella Elghanayan is a publicist.

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