Program alumnus to receive Washington University’s 2016 Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award

Congratulations to alumnus Adam Pearson, OTD' 11, OTR/L, who will be one of the four recipients to receive Washington University’s 2016 Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award. The award recognizes members of the Washington University community who exemplify a character of service and contribution to the St. Louis region. He was nominated by Steve Taff, PhD, OTR/L, for his commitment to serving those who are chronically homeless in the St. Louis community.

“Adam is an unsung hero serving as program director of Peter & Paul Community Services’ Safe Haven Program and site manager for Garfield Place Apartments, which provides supportive housing for men and women transitioning out of chronic homelessness.  It’s never been “just a job” for Adam; he’s fully vested in making positive change in his client’s lives,” writes Taff in his nomination letter.

As the first director, Pearson helped develop the application process for tenants at Garfield Place Apartments. This application is unique in giving priority to applicants who have had previous issues with paying the rent, a history of altercations with landlords or other tenants, or the need for assistance with medications. The reason for this was to make sure the Safe Haven staff truly serves those living in the apartments with the greatest need as these individuals often have mental illness, spinal cord injuries, strokes or other chronic diseases and would most likely be turned down by other housing providers. 

With Pearson’s leadership, Garfield Place Apartments has been recognized by the Missouri Housing Development Commission as a “Best Practices” facility, and has been spotlighted by a number of news and media outlets. Pearson has taken an assertive approach to working with tenants with behavioral issues. As a result, the apartments boast a higher-than-average retention rate, which is attributed to Safe Haven staff continuously reaching out to at-risk tenants in an effort to engage them in healthy, meaningful activities. The staff has grown to 14 and includes a part-time nurse, substance abuse counselor and housing specialists who staff the building 356 days a year.  They hold at least one support/self-care/substance abuse group every week, and though attendance is optional, attendance is regularly high.

“As an alumnus, Adam is always willing to give back to the university and to the Program in Occupational Therapy by serving as a guest speaker to share his experiences working with the homeless population to future occupational therapists,” says Taff.  “The Safe Haven Program also serves as a clinical site to provide experiential learning to occupational therapy students, as well as undergraduate and graduate students who desire to interact more with individuals who may have mental illness.” 

“Adam is a leader in our community and fully dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of the homeless in St. Louis.  His vision is at the forefront of occupational therapy’s emerging focus on addressing sociocultural determinants of health,” said Carolyn M. Baum, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Elias Michael Executive Director of the Program in Occupational Therapy and professor of occupational therapy, of neurology and of social work.

The annual Ethic of Service Award reception will be held Thursday, April 28, 2015, from 5:30-7:00 pm at the Charles F. Knight Executive Education & Conference Center on the Danforth campus.

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