A Home Of Hope

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

"She was about 20 here," Elaine says. "She made it back from London all by herself. It's sort of where it ends."

Around that time, Melissa's college roommates called Elaine and her husband Nate to tell them Melissa was acting strangely. They picked their daughter up at Washington University, brought her home to Blacklick, and took her to a psychiatrist. Melissa, the doctor said, had bi-polar disorder.

The journey between that diagnosis and Melissa's death at 36 was poignant, sometimes harrowing.

After Melissa died, the Goldbergs returned home from the hospital to a friend's loving question: Where should donations go? Elaine didn't hesitate. "Melissa's House," she said. Even at the most tragic of times, hope and resolve pushed Elaine to pursue a dream. "We traveled around," she said. "We wanted the best for our daughter. We never found it."

Now they're building what they never could find: a welcoming home for adults living with mental illness.

Billy remembers Melissa going from institutional home to institutional home. They had hard-edged hospital hand-me downs, institutional soap, brown paper towels and cement block walls. Something as simple as a comfortable chair was tough-sometimes impossible-to find.

"There was no programming; they were just places to exist," Billy said. "Most of these places had no warmth. Dedicated staffers showed warmth, but their hands were tied because of the facilities."

No parent wants to see a child in that setting, Melissa's father said.

"People living with mental illness have enough negativity in their lives," Nate said. "They don't need an undesirable home, too."

It's why Elaine would spend "every day of my life searching out places, talking to doctors, trying to find something that would help Melissa." She flew around the country, her son said, to monitor Melissa's care.

"She never gave up," Billy said. "There really aren't too many people on this planet like her."

She taught him, he said, how to turn a tragedy into something positive. And the positive is Melissa's House.

It is a work in progress. Fundraising is on-going-they've raised $250,000 toward their $1 million "phase I" goal, which should complete the home's hub. During phase II, they plan to build 10 one-bedroom apartments to be leased by adults with serious mental illness.

The Goldbergs already secured the property and a main building-a grand old home that sits at 100 Jefferson Avenue in Columbus, on the city's near east side.

It's slated for a major renovation, and when it's done, it will be where the residents can find daily counseling, support, hope and comfort. The plan includes rooms for things like art therapy and yoga (something Melissa loved). The space will also be home to seminars that will educate people about mental illness and bring estranged families back together.

"If the four walls are the body of Melissa's House," Billy said, "my mother is the heart and soul."

Elaine wants the world to understand mental illness is like any other illness. She believes Melissa's House will show that people like her daughter can live their lives if they receive the proper help in a welcoming, warm place.

"It's too late for us," Elaine said.

"But our passion for wanting to help other people is stronger," she added. "As we heal, we want to help others."

Want to help? Visit Watch Kristyn Hartman on 10TV HD weeknights or follow her on Twitter @Kristyn10TV.

Photo by Will Shilling

Caption (in front of house)

Nate and Elaine Goldberg in front of what will be the Melissa's House hub

Caption (3 handout photos)

Melissa Goldberg with her family, her and below, in happy times