Alumni Profile: Kimberly Rixon, Social Work

Kimberly Rixon '12 couldn't have asked for a better job when she graduated last June with a degree in Social Work. She joined the team at the new Crisis Solutions Center run by the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), the largest multi-service agency serving homeless adults in the Puget Sound area. The agency is nationally recognized as a leader in services for chronically homeless adults with behavioral health disorders.

The Crisis Solutions Center provides short-term residential treatment for up to 40 people at a time. Admittance, which is voluntary, is only by referrals from an emergency room or first responder.

"We provide a safe, therapeutic alternative to jail and hospitalization for people in a crisis due to mental illness," she said recently.

Before coming to Seattle University as a transfer student from Bellevue Community College, Rixon spent a year volunteering in inner city Atlanta at a food bank and an after-school program. Her kindergarten students came mainly from immigrant families, and she became a liaison between the families and the schools and other community resources. She continued working with immigrant families when she returned to Washington and did her senior Social Work practicum at Compass Housing Alliance.

"Working with adults in downtown Seattle as part of my Compass internship got me interested in mental health," she said. "I saw the importance of housing in creating stability in the rest of a person’s life."

She soon met Bill Hobson, DESC's executive director, through a class at SU and learned more about the value of integrating housing, mental health, and substance abuse treatment for people who are homeless.

For many, the Crisis Solutions Center is a critical stop in breaking the revolving door of homelessness and hospitalization. A voluntary program that maintains a full-time staff of psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, and case managers, the center is designed to connect people with the supports they need to avoid the next crisis. Some return to their homes within 72 hours; others stay at the center for up to two weeks.

"I see a lot of people who have never received mental health treatment," Rixon said. "Most have had some interaction with a health care provider, but not a consistent relationship. Those with chronic mental illnesses need a long-term solution that includes housing with comprehensive support services. DESC is providing that solution."