George is a gentleman in his late-50s with bright blue eyes and the sweetest grin. He dresses impeccably well, and is typically very quiet. However, it’s never a secret when George is passionate about something because quite suddenly his blue eyes light up and he uses words like “tremendously” to emphasize his point. More than anything, George loves architecture and drawing. At eighteen, he studied architecture at a local university, where his passion and talent were immediately noticed. He was offered a position with a firm while still in school. Architecture is how George engages with the world around him. One of his favorite activities is simply walking around neighborhoods in the District, admiring the buildings, and sketching in the art book that never leaves his side.
Before finding Pathways to Housing DC, George lived on the street for almost 30 years, struggling with undiagnosed mental illness. He slept in front of businesses, on bus benches, and in parks throughout Foggy Bottom. This version of life had become routine for George and he had accepted that it would never get better. Eventually, he began spending time with an organization in the area that had an art therapy group. Art group was a way for George to reconnect with a lifelong passion and escape the world he had grown accustomed to. After several years of attending art group, George was referred to Pathways to Housing DC. Initially, George missed every scheduled meeting with his Pathways staff. When they offered him an apartment of his own, he would ask, “Why would you do this for me?”. George had been on his own for so many years that he was afraid to want anything from anyone. Other organizations had let him down and he didn’t see why this time would be any different. It felt safer not to expect anything from anyone.
His Pathways team knew that it would take time for George to trust again. They took things slowly and at George’s pace. They spent time getting to know George and learning more about other activities he enjoyed, like going to the library to run Google searches on the histories of the buildings he found fascinating. Finally, after a year of relationship building, George announced that he was ready to begin looking for an apartment. His team showed him several units and he settled on a quiet place in an ornate building in northeast DC. George signed his lease in September 2015 and when asked by Sophie, one of the team members he worked most closely with, how it felt now that he had a place of his own, he told her, “I absolutely love my apartment. It’s tremendous!” It was the happiest Sophie had ever seen him.
George has made amazing progress in the three years since he originally started working with Pathways to Housing DC. He’s more focused on his physical and mental health. He schedules and keeps his regular doctors’ appointments. George better understands what schizophrenia is and has chosen to take medication to help him feel better. He is incredibly goal oriented and wants to constantly improve himself and his apartment. George attends church in his community and goes to the library to learn more about his new favorite topic: technology. He’s reclaiming his life since his plans were so tragically interrupted by mental illness after college. Each day becomes easier for him as he grows accustomed to his new daily rhythm. Having an apartment of his own provided George the stability to not only tackle the obstacles in his way towards recovery, but has also given him the opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, like looking at the surrounding architecture of his neighborhood from the comfort of his home.
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