20 Years On: Belinda Bernard is still providing hope for the hurting

As a student just graduating from Hunter College, Belinda Bernard was planning on staying 6 months at Project Renewal, 20 years later she is still with us and is dedicated to helping clients who struggle with mental illness.

“There is so much about human beings that we misunderstand and take for granted.” Belinda said. Her best days at work are when a client experiences a new insight; an accomplishment that takes them to the next level of their treatment and increases their awareness and independence.

Directing the Safe Haven Shelter is a new role for Belinda, following many years on the staff at Clinton Residence.

Since those first days moving from a student at Hunter to Project Renewal, the client population—those struggling with mental health issues—remains her focus.

“People are dealing with loss constantly, and we work to help them see that it isn’t over, there is hope. The sense of self that you lose when you are homeless can be regained and you can even plan for future goals.” She is enlivened by the steps her clients take in this direction. “One client, at 50, has just signed up for school. Others go to work for the first time in 30 or 40 years…this is an overlooked group of necessary people.”

She says that Project Renewal hasn’t changed all that much in her time here, “Just expanded, our core population has always stayed the same—to be of service to people who are in need, who otherwise couldn’t access those services.”