Success Stories: Housing First Program
Henry spent 28 years homeless and on the streets. While in drug rehabilitation he met a PLACES case manager, who helped him get an apartment through the PLACES Housing First Program. Today Henry is a motivational speaker at PROJECT C.U.R.E., INC., a nonprofit drug rehabilitation program, and sponsors recovering addicts through Narcotics Anonymous. He enjoys fishing and reading and is also a barber.
“Staying clean and sober is a 24-hour-a-day job, but the people at PLACES helped me step by step. They said, ‘Henry, it’s up to you. You can go back on the streets or stay here. What do you choose?’ I didn’t think I could do it because I’d been on the streets for so long. But I wanted some peace of mind. I was tired of living that life.
“PLACES showed me what love is about: caring about other people. I’m not the guy I was yesterday. Yesterday I didn’t care nothing about living. I want to live today.”
At PLACES, every one of the individuals in the Housing First Program is a success story. Meet a few of them: Henry, Roberta, Terrence and Shaelynn.
Roberta, who suffered from mental illness and substance abuse, was in constant pain because of her many physical ailments. She was weary of sleeping in stairwells and garages and needed a home.
PLACES accepted Roberta into the Housing First Program and helped her get mental health counseling, medication, health care and dental work, which improved her physical well-being tremendously. When she was no longer in pain, Roberta’s attitude and demeanor began to change. She worked on getting and staying clean. And she became more pleasant. PLACES affirmed her progress, and it continued.
That was seven years ago. Recently Roberta met a man and fell in love, so she is planning to move out of the Housing First Program and into an independent apartment soon. Roberta says she wants to provide the opportunity she had at PLACES to someone else from the streets who needs help.
Terrence, who had lived in a homeless shelter for years, often was victimized by people who beat him and stole his money after he cashed his disability checks. As a result, Terrence suffered from traumatic brain injuries. He struggled with personal hygiene, and his only clothes fit into a sack the size of a small wastebasket.
The staff at PLACES knew Terrence needed help and a lot of care, even though working with Terrence would be a challenge. But PLACES accepted Terrence into the Housing First Program. Even though Terrence was difficult to manage because of his outbursts, and his appearance sometimes frightened people, the staff at PLACES persisted. Doctors recommended medication, and he was hospitalized for a short time.
After just a couple of months, Terrence has begun to change. He is now more sociable. He has begun cooperating with staff members when they remind him about his medication. He has taken more interest in his personal care and hygiene. And he is dressing in more acceptable clothing.
He knows he has his own room and his own bed, and that he is safe; no one will steal from him anymore. PLACES has worked with Terrence to build this trust and confidence, and as a result, Terrence has made some significant changes. Even though there may be a relapse or a tough spot ahead, the staff members at PLACES now know the potential inside Terrence and are nurturing it.
Shaelynn – who was using drugs and alcohol, had a felony on her record and was living on the streets – was accepted into the Housing First Program at PLACES. Since she finally had a stable home, she began working on her fears and many other issues that were holding her back.
Before long, her daughters and grandchildren came around to visit, which was very important to Shaelynn, and she took an interest in decorating her apartment. By then she had begun paying her rent on time, stopped using drugs, reduced her alcohol consumption and recovered from several serious surgeries over the last two years. With support from PLACES and another service provider, she got the courage to press charges against a former boyfriend who had assaulted her, which ended in a prison sentence for him.
Recently she decided to move to her own apartment to become even more independent and get farther away from the people she knew from the streets. As a former Housing First tenant, Shaelynn will continue to receive case management services and a rental subsidy to assist throughout her transition.