Learning to Live with Mental Illness

Learning to Live with Mental Illness

Fountain House is dedicated to the recovery of people living with serious mental illness. They provide extensive opportunities for their members to live, work and learn while contributing their talents to a community of mutual support.


By working together, Fountain House members regain confidence, make friends, learn new skills and make progress towards achieving their employment and educational goals. The opportunity to be a part of a successful working community is restorative and builds dignity and self-esteem. Fountain House has inspired the creation of hundreds of similar programs in 34 countries that serve more than 100,000 people annually who live with serious mental illness.  


In 2013, Fountain House launched their social enterprise initiative, Linking Lives, as another avenue for creating jobs for people with mental illness. They currently operate five social enterprises that provide employment opportunities for their community of members. Just this past October, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) recognized Fountain House as “Champions of Change” for their innovative vision, design, development and implementation in changing the status quo for employment and career opportunities for New Yorkers with mental illness.


Fountain House’s social enterprises are designed to create alternative employment opportunities and encourage entrepreneurship among members. These businesses successfully target niche markets by providing high-quality services at competitive rates, attracting a growing client base in New York City. Social enterprise achieves a double bottom-line. Fountain House’s offer affordable, top-quality services to clients while providing employees from traditionally marginalized populations with the opportunity to enter the workforce and obtain invaluable job skills. Through innovative and entrepreneurial ventures, members learn industry specific skills that are transferable in the marketplace.


Their micro-business incubator has created six successful social enterprises:

  •         Jack Rabbit Deliveries is a bicycle courier service that delivers food products from online marketplaces, subscription box service companies and farmers markets.
  •         Bluebird Designs is a floral arrangement and plant installation company that offers corporate gift giving and landscaping services.
  •         Clever Cheetah Catering is a catering and event production business that contracts with companies such as Johnson and Johnson and Sunovion. Clever Cheetah Catering also operates a public café at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
  •         Rock Dove Industrial Services offers professional services by outsourcing corporate mailrooms.
  •         BeeWell: provides Certified Peer Counseling for people in New York City.
  •         The Phoenix Collective: The Phoenix Collective supports social enterprises launched through Fountain House’s initiative. It acts as a central hub of resources by providing back office services to the businesses, giving them the freedom to focus on day-to-day operations. Services include basic accounting, tax filing, bookkeeping, payroll services, managing accounts receivable and payable, invoicing customers and providing some clerical and reception support.


Fountain House social enterprises have trained and employed a total of 275 people since its inception three years ago, of whom approximately 40% are formerly incarcerated. They offer members who have experienced barriers to employment an opportunity to enter the workforce and obtain invaluable marketable job skills, establish relationships with coworkers and customers and prepare to seek full-time jobs beyond social enterprise positions. When compared to the general population living with mental illness, Fountain House members complete their education and are employed at more than twice the average rate. Furthermore, 99% of Fountain House members are housed with a re-hospitalization rate of 10%, opposed to 40% for people living with serious mental illness in the general population.


Fountain House joined Social Enterprise Alliance in 2015 to gain expertise and assistance and create a strong social enterprise program. Their membership has provided a new network and invaluable educational educational resources.

To learn more about Wildlife Works, check out their member directory profile.

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