Meryl Lieberman worked for many years running a program called Mentally Ill Homeless Services. She traveled all around New Mexico and became all too familiar with the lack of services for mentally ill homeless people. In 1995, Lieberman co-founded Casa Milagro, a 6000-square-foot, 12-bedroom home on the Southside of Santa Fe where people struggling with homelessness and mental illness can have a safe, permanent home, including their own bedroom and an animal companion.

What is it that Casa Milagro does that other future regulated board-and-care places should take into account?

What is here is not only a sense of each person being valued individually as well as community contributions, but we create a sense of community. People work on their interpersonal communications here. We have a culture of kindness. We do not curse at each other, we do not put each other down. Non-violent in every way, including how we relate to one another. For me one of the important things was animal companionship. We even had a resident here, Wiley, who had an emotional support hedgehog.

What are some of the things that the city of Santa Fe and the New Mexico state government should do to help mentally ill and homeless people?

I think there need to be communities like this all over the state. I’m hoping once the governor doesn’t have to focus so much on terrorism right now I actually want to get her out here so that she can see what the alternative to those places are and hopefully allocate some state money to start places like this all over because there should be one in every community.

What do you wish more people understood about the mental health stigma and homelessness?

As long as we live in a culture that is divisive and combative that it's impossible not to be dealing with mental challenges. I think we're all on the continuum somewhere, absolutely. And I think that as stigma reduction happens and more people can come out about what it is they struggle with I think our whole system, our whole society, will be benefited.