|"Today, Stanley has his own apartment, where he feels safe and lives independently - a life he never thought would be possible."
Stanley can only take either the first or last train on the metro and he must always sit facing forward. While he struggles to comprehend maps, he remembers landmarks with accurate detail. He is comfortable walking on only one side of the street, and must wash his hands at least once every hour. Stanley is a slow reader, but insists on finishing his morning newspaper, no matter how long it takes. When you talk to Stanley, you can hear a slight New York accent, which thickens as he talks about home and his favorite sports team: the Yankees. He repeats every sentence several times, until he feels his listener fully understands. Stanley has autism and an obsessive compulsive disorder.
Needing consistency and structure, Stanley always relied heavily on those closest to him. Stanley’s life was drastically altered the year he lost the only person who provided him with love, stability, and support: his grandmother. Less than a month after his grandmother’s death, and without any friends or family to care for him, Stanley was left alone to navigate the world. Without direction or a place to go, the street soon became his new home. Because of his trusting nature and reliance on others, Stanley was quickly taken advantage of by individuals who convinced him they would be his ally. His experiences on the street left Stanley not only physically disabled, but also contributed to his constant anxiety. He turned to alcohol and became dependent on its ability to help calm and numb him to his new reality.
When Hunter, an Outreach Specialist in the Golden Triangle BID, met Stanley, he had been living under traumatic conditions on the street for several years. Despite the suffering Stanley had endured, he desperately wanted to change his life and learn how to live independently. Hunter and Stanley built a rapport almost immediately through their shared sense of humor. Over the next several months, they navigated and learned the social services system together. Stanley slowly started placing more trust in Hunter, someone who, unlike the people from Stanley’s past, was a true ally. Because Hunter knew independence was an important goal of Stanley’s, he took the necessary steps to ensure that Stanley learned to be self-sufficient, assisting him in obtaining a consistent source of disability income and teaching techniques for managing his anxiety. However, Hunter understood that Stanley could never live the independent life he so fiercely wanted without addressing the trauma that he had endured. Hunter was able to connect Stanley to a psychiatrist who immediately started the work of helping Stanley confront his past. Throughout the process, Hunter remained a permanent supportive figure in Stanley’s life, something that had not been present in Stanley’s life for many years.
At the same time, Hunter assisted Stanley in completing a housing assessment which allowed Stanley to be considered for a housing voucher through the Coordinated Entry System. Hunter connected Stanley to Andrew, who works on the Pathways DC housing team. Andrew quickly became another constant presence in Stanley’s life as he diligently worked to find an apartment that met Stanley’s needs and, most importantly, made Stanley feel safe. After living on the street for over five years, Stanley finally had a home of his own.
Today, Stanley still only takes the first or last train on the metro, always sitting forward. He continues to wash his hands hourly and struggles to understand directions. Today, Stanley has his own apartment, where he feels safe and lives independently – a life he never thought would be possible. In his home, he wakes up each morning and reads every section of the newspaper. In his home, Stanley has a television where he can tune in to cheer on his Yankees. Because of Hunter, Andrew, and Stanley’s team at Pathways DC, Stanley has his own home, an income, mental health support, and more importantly, trust in himself. Stanley is confident in his ability to accomplish any task or hobby he wants – and he can now do so, independently.