Outpost for Hope, Locating the Invisible Missing People
by Lauren Berkebile, NAMI intern
When her sister Ashley disappeared over a decade ago, one of the first things Libba Phillips thought to do was file a missing persons report. But because Ashley lived with mental illness and was drug-addicted and homeless, the authorities would not accept Libba's appeal. Libba used her experiences to begin the nonprofit organization Outpost for Hope.
Operating as a web-based philanthropic project, Outpost for Hope works to define and raise awareness about the invisible missing—unreported missing adults who are often lost in homeless populations. The organization centers around the idea that "if someone is not listed as missing, then how do you find them?"
For the instances in which law enforcement cannot file a missing persons report, Outpost for Hope provides self-help tools that can guide families throughout their crises. The Lost Among the Homeless Resource Guide offers tips as to how to ask for help from authorities, media and other professionals as well as how to start a personal recovery process. Having a recovery plan prior to locating a missing loved one is vital for reunification. It is important to keep in mind that having a loved one simply return home after being homeless, ill or drug-addicted is often not realistic. The guide also reminds readers to eat, sleep and go to work—all basic tasks that are often put on hold when going through a crisis.
Throughout her years of searching, Libba has located her sister on several occasions, but sadly, Ashley is missing once again. Nonetheless, Libba finds strength in sharing her experience while seeking to empower others in similar situations while creating more hopeful outcomes. "Remember," says Phillips, "hope begins in the dark."
Outpost for Hope serves as a volunteer nonprofit organization assisting families, law enforcement, forensic investigators and social services in locating the invisible missing persons in the United States. For more information, please visit www.outpostforhope.org.