“Having a home helped me develop boundaries.”

When Dwight was 17, his mother took his father’s life when she shot him repeatedly in the back.  Dwight was confused and angry and began trying to relieve his pain with drugs and alcohol.  Despite all this, he excelled at basketball and when he graduated high school was offered a college basketball scholarship.

Dwight’s pain, anger, and self-medication continued in college and he ended up dropping out. He got married and had two kids, but all the while he struggled with PTSD and extreme shame and guilt. Dwight felt that he didn’t fit in anywhere or with anyone. He eventually got divorced and separated from his family, which led to his homelessness.

Dwight moved around a lot, living outside and sleeping at bus stops, in tents, and in shelters and hotels, for more than six years. He eventually ended up at AHOPE where the staff enrolled him at the Red Roof Inn to shelter during the pandemic. 

That’s when Dwight met Homeward Bound Case Manager Elizabeth Bowers, whose compassionate, non-judgmental support opened his eyes. 

“She helped me get a grip and get stable. Knowing someone cared made a big difference and gave me confidence.” Dwight opened up and allowed the help that Elizabeth offered and in December, he moved into a home.

“Having a home helped me develop boundaries. Boundaries gave me an identity and self-worth and the ability to protect myself.”

Dwight has reconnected with his family after 12 years and is getting to know his many grand kids, ages six to twelve. He’s working as a cook two days a week at the Salvation Army, taking the bus to see friends and family, and loves spending time at his home. 

Homeward Bound provides stability for Donna.

I have a client, Donna Rogers, who has been successfully housed with HB since 2014. Prior to housing, Donna was constantly getting arrested, going to jail and the hospital, mainly for reasons related to substance use. Donna was also receiving intensive mental health services, as she was not stable. 

Over the last 7 years she has been arrested once and has not used any substances in several years (even quit smoking). Donna now has income as she was awarded disability benefits several years ago and has a vehicle which has allowed her to become increasingly more independent. Donna no longer requires a mental health provider since she is able to self-regulate without psychotropic medication.

Donna has a lovely 3 bedroom/2 bathroom trailer in the country and is on her way to graduating from the program.

“Just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you’re not somebody.”

Bronya’s father never gave up on her. Not when she moved into a tent that became her home for five years, or when she lived in a camper for three more. 

Bronya finally escaped the cruelty and violence of the man she was involved with for more than a decade. She suffered constant beatings and verbal abuse. Her self-esteem was destroyed and she started using drugs to dull the pain. 

Bronya’s life was never easy but being homeless was the worst. It was lonely and scary. When she lived outside, she had to watch out for copperheads and other wild animals. Coyotes came so close to her tent that she could hear them breathe, and listening to the eerie growl of the bobcats was terrifying. 

Her father checked in on her daily while she was living outside and ultimately was the main motivation for her to become sober and live in recovery. Bronya has been in recovery now for more than two years. 

The only good thing about living outside was meeting Nubs, Bronya’s little Chihuahua. The woman whose land she pitched her tent on, forced one of her puppies on Bronya despite her refusals. That first night, it was so cold in the tent that when Bronya awoke, Nubs was curled up and snuggled around her face. “Now that’s real love.” And since then, they’ve never been apart. 

Homeward Bound moved Bronya and Nubs into their own home last October. Right around that time, she was hospitalized with pneumonia and diagnosed with COPD and told she’d be on an inhaler for the rest of her life.

“She is so much healthier since she moved into housing,” exclaimed Bronya’s Case Manager Anne Greene. “She’s outdoors all the time gardening, sleeping, and eating better. Before, she had no refrigeration and could only eat packaged foods. Now Bronya eats salads that she grows, her emotional health has improved, and the doctor has taken her off the inhaler.”

Bronya, who was a landscaper for 18 years before she became homeless, is an expert and innovative gardener. She found plant material all over her property, along with pieces of “found art”, and turned a barren landscape into lovely, fanciful little gardens. Bronya loves her home and looks forward to creating more unique garden spaces.

 “Don’t give up on people who are homeless,” muses Bronya.“ Just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you’re not somebody. You just fell on hard times. There’s more to a person’s story than just that.”

Bronya is still writing her story; a beautiful landscape yet to be finished. Watch an interview with Bronya here.

“Getting people housed, is the best thing you can do for them!”

Matthew grew up a tough kid in New York City. He had a falling out with his parents and a judge granted him emancipation when he was 16. With no parental support, Matthew raised himself and did the best he could. He lived in the basement of a pizza parlor, on the streets, in abandoned cars. 

As an adult, Matthew’s life continued on a difficult path. He always worked very physical jobs like roofing, cutting down trees, replacing floors, home construction. That life took a toll on his body – he fractured his spine, had bone spurs in his neck, arthritic feet, and bad knees. He had five surgeries in three years and began to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to deal with the pain. That led to jail time and more homelessness.

When you talk to Matthew, who is now 59, he makes no excuses for his life. But, he also recognizes that when you’re homeless, you have no civil rights.  He’s been arrested over and over again for nuisance crimes like carrying an open container; once the container was in his backpack and he still got arrested. 

Matthew exclaimed, “When you’re arrested, you accumulate court fees which you can’t pay, and so you go back to jail. When you’re older and homeless and don’t have a car, no one will hire you, so you can’t pay off your debts. Then you become more of an alcoholic, more of a criminal. The system is geared to keep you homeless.”

Matthew finally accessed housing when he came to AHOPE. “Asking for help was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a man. I was always self-sufficient. But I knew if I stayed on the streets any longer, I’d be a dead man.” 

Matthew’s case manager worked hard to find him the right living situation and once he moved into a home, his life turned around. 

Matthew explained, “Since I’ve been housed, I’ve had no problem with the law and all I’ve done is try to improve my life. I got my health taken care of, no more opioids, and I was able to get off most of the other meds. They had me on seven different medications – antidepressants, anti-anxieties. Now, when I’m down I can assess mental health services. I’m becoming more holistic, eating healthier and exercising, doing yoga. Getting people housed, is the best thing you can do for them!”

Having a home has brought out Matthew’s creative side. He finds treasures in thrift stores and junk shops and turns them into works of art.

“Other people buy art; I turn old things into masterpieces.”