A New Name for a New Life

It took months for “Ice” to tell Hunter his real name. When he first appeared in the Golden Triangle, Ice attracted a lot of attention because he slept in the middle of the sidewalk, regardless of the weather conditions. Shielding himself from the weather and the world, Ice would regularly smoke cigarettes from underneath his pile of blankets; blankets that would frequently catch fire. Every time, Ice would escape the flames unscathed, eventually earning him his nickname – he was so cool even fire couldn’t touch him.

Unfortunately, the nickname didn’t fit his attitude toward other people at the time. After years of fluctuating between social service agencies, both court mandated and voluntary, Ice felt unable to trust anyone. Ice struggled to manage his anger, and the Golden Triangle Outreach team received regular calls because he would aggressively confront anyone who passed by. Consequently, Ice became involved with the justice system, making it extremely difficult for his team, including Hunter, to stay connected with him. When Ice was back in his regular spot, Hunter was there, picking up right where they had left off.

Hunter soon discovered that Ice was suffering from lice and scabies, making even more uncomfortable the already harsh experience of sleeping on the streets. While this extremely uncomfortable affliction worsened his anger issues, it also provided an opportunity for Hunter to deepen his relationship with Ice by working with him to get the help he needed. Ice reluctantly agreed to using a social service agency for the necessary showers and treatment while Hunter coordinated the complex care required to eradicate the condition. Although Ice was beginning to warm up to Hunter, he never anticipated Ice’s trust would be tested on their first visit to the doctor’s office. When asked for his real name, Ice paused and Hunter worried that he would storm out of the agency in anger. After a long and uncomfortable silence, Ice finally told the doctor his real name. He requested, however, that Hunter always continue to use “Ice.”

Hunter had made a major breakthrough in his relationship with Ice. Trust had been established, so much so that Ice began letting Hunter into other parts of his life. This allowed Hunter to work with the DC Coordinated Entry system to find a housing voucher for Ice. For 2 1/2 months, while waiting for the voucher and housing to become available, Hunter worked daily with Ice to meet his basic needs, obtain the ID necessary for housing, and connect with the mental health care that Ice needed to manage his anger and complex mental health challenges. Just as importantly, Hunter kept Ice focused on the hope of the housing that was soon to become a reality.

When Ice finally moved into his apartment, he did so with the love and support of Hunter, and the rest of the Pathways team, firmly behind him. One day, soon after getting settled into his home, Ice and Hunter were on their way to a mental health appointment when Ice received a call. It was a job offer from a restaurant a short distance away from where Ice used to panhandle. After telling Hunter the news with a huge smile, Ice paused, and said, “Hey Hunter, this is a new chapter in my life, and my old name doesn’t really make sense any more. I’d like to be called by my real name now… Malcolm.”