Homeless at 57, College Grad at 58

Howard likes people. Spend five minutes in his company, and you’re bound to walk away with a smile on your face after hearing him spin a tale or two (or three). This talent has served him well. Aside from his early years working in the taconite mines north of Duluth, Howard has made a career in the service industry. Whether he was working for a bus company, metro taxi, software company, or bookstore, he always enjoyed helping people.

Then, at age 57, something happened that Howard thought could never happen to him. He became homeless. He was living in Duluth, working for Walmart, when he was laid off. He tried to find another job, but a depressed economy and his age worked against him.

When he started falling behind on rent, Howard packed up all his belongings in a 14 foot truck and moved down to the Cities. He put his stuff in storage and planned to stay with friends. However, the landlord discovered another person in the unit and said he was going to raise rent by $300. After two weeks in the Cities, Howard had nowhere to go.

When a county worker told Howard about the Minneapolis shelters, he decided Our Saviour’s was where he wanted to be. He explains, “Our Saviour’s sounded the best. It has a reputation as a good place to go, ’cause they’re willing to help you. They’re willing to go the extra mile with you.” The shelter didn’t have immediate openings, but Howard was first on the waiting list. Somebody called him at 5 o’clock the next day and said they had a bed for him. Did he want it? Howard’s response, “Well, does it snow in Minnesota in the wintertime?!”

After 90 days at the shelter, Howard was accepted into Our Saviour’s Permanent Supportive Housing Program. When he first learned that he’d be getting his own apartment, he says, “Oh, I could have jumped up and kissed him! Hugged him and everything else. It’s fantastic, you know. When he handed me the key, you don’t know what went through me. I just cried. I was beginning to question whether it was going to happen or not.”

Howard has now remained stably housed in his apartment for two and a half years. During this time, his proudest achievement has been going back to school. He says, “I was a high school graduate, and at 58 years old, I said, ‘I’m going to go to college.’ I wanted to help people, but I knew that retail wasn’t going to make me any money. So I applied for a Pell grant and went to MCTC and took a course in community health work.” Howard never before thought he could go to college, but he became a proud graduate in May of 2016. Even though he was the oldest person in his classes, that didn’t stop his classmates from asking to see his notes!

Moving forward, Howard hopes to put his education to use as a full-time community health worker. Ultimately, he wants to become independently housed, explaining, “As long as I’m on the program, there’s somebody else that could get on if I wasn’t there. That’s why I want to get off it.”

In the meantime, Howard works part-time at the University of Minnesota Reuse Center through Experience Works, a senior job training program. He also volunteers at North Point’s community food shelf and serves as a board member for Quatrefoil Library, the nation’s second oldest LGBTQ library. In fact, he was recently featured on WCCO as an advocate for the library!

Howard is grateful for the support he’s received from Our Saviour’s Housing that has helped make all of this possible. He wants people to know, “Without Our Saviour’s, I don’t know what I would have done. I don’t know where I would be right now. I shudder to even think about what would have happened. Our Saviour’s Housing was there when I needed it, and I can’t thank them enough. I’m not in a position to donate right now, but when I get a little better situated, I won’t forget Our Saviour’s Housing.”

To those who can donate, he says, “I would thank them immensely because this program needs them all. Without people that donate, Our Saviour’s wouldn’t be around – simple as that. Because of people that donated, I got the help that I needed when I needed it.”