From Shelter to Board Room: Gaylord Gives Back

“I’m a lot happier. I didn’t realize how sad I was until now. Anyone can get on this program and make it work, get a step up in life. It’s so hard being homeless, but this place does help.”

Gaylord’s life has never been easy. He grew up in Wisconsin with few people to care for him, explaining, “Ma died when I was 11. Then my brother died of alcoholism. My dad died just last year, but he lived in Texas so I rarely saw him. Other relatives had a lot of money but didn’t want to deal with me.”

By adulthood, Gaylord struggled with his own drinking and drug use, which resulted in the end of his first marriage. He lost everything, including his possessions and home. For the next 8 years, he worked hard to become sober and remarried in 1994. But his new wife filed for divorce right after his daughter was born. It hurt a lot to not be able to see his child. “But every time I tried to see her, the mother would complain to the courts and get my child support increased.”

Gaylord then moved to Minneapolis, working with a sewer company and mowing lawns to get by. He lived out of a friend’s van, changing parking lots every few nights. “I kept to myself at the library, on the streets. I didn’t talk to too many people. I was afraid of what they thought about me.”

With the various jobs he took, child support was supposed to be automatically taken out of his paycheck. Gaylord remembers seeing his paystubs show that it had been withdrawn. So he was shocked to discover in 2005 that there was a warrant for his arrest in Wisconsin for unpaid child support – 7 felonies due to $100,000 backlogged over 8 years. Unfortunately, he didn’t have his old paystubs to show as proof of payment. “I was drinking again, and I threw them out.” He was extradited to Wisconsin where he spent 6 months in jail.

Returning to Minneapolis after his release, Gaylord learned about OSH from a friend. He got a bed immediately. It was, “a good meal, good bed, good shower, and especially good support.” This support helped Gaylord get sober again – this time for good.

After 6 months at the shelter, Gaylord signed up for OSH’s Permanent Supportive Housing Program. Now, after 6 years, Gaylord is ready to leave PSH and move out on his own. He is excited that his new apartment will be on a higher floor (his current place is garden-level), one where he can have open blinds and plants in his house. While he’ll miss working with his case manager, Gaylord looks forward to connecting to OSH in a new capacity – as its newest board member!

Having personally experienced the difficulties of homelessness, Gaylord brings with him valuable insight that he’s more than happy to contribute: “It’s something that’s given to me. I’m willing to give 100% on whatever needs to be done. I’m there. It would make me so proud to be able to do that.”

Reflecting on his time at OSH and on the change he’s seen in his life, Gaylord concludes, “I’m a lot happier. I didn’t realize how sad I was until now. Anyone can get on this program and make it work, get a step up in life. It’s so hard being homeless, but this place does help.”

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