“My life hasn’t ever been easy. My mother drank herself to death. I spent some of my childhood in orphanages and rode the rails for decades, working when I could. I slept on compost heaps and under cardboard boxes because shelters reminded me of the orphanage. It’s violent on the streets. I’ve been stabbed twice, and I stopped keeping count after the first ten friends died from violence or alcohol.
I wanted a home, though—a place with my own key, my own bathroom. I remember walking down the street once on Christmas day without anywhere to go. I saw a TV flickering in a house window and really wished I were inside with that family.
By the time I came to OSH and they helped me find an apartment, I hadn’t had my own place since 1980. At first, home felt like jail, but I also had so much anxiety it felt impossible to leave. It would take three hours to get myself to the gas station across the street.
Throughout this transition, my case manager was there for me. I’m now in recovery from alcohol; I’ve only been to detox twice in all of three years in my apartment. I used to go once or twice a week, including a total of 368 times to one local center alone.
I’m so much more comfortable in my home these days—it’s my sanctuary. My cat Stretch is my constant companion; taking care of him is good for me. I get out of the house a lot more: I go to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, the vet, support groups, and volunteer activities. My mind and body heal a little more every day.
The cops used to know me from taking me to detox, but now they know me because they see me picking up trash in the neighborhood. In the future, I want to help senior citizens with repairs and maintenance so that they can have a home like I do. I’ve got rakes and tools waiting in my closet for the day I’m ready to make that step.
We all need a safety net, and the staff at OSH has always shown compassion, patience, and understanding. I believe I would literally be dead by now if I were still on the streets. It’s unbelievable where I am today.”