|Pull Quote||"I would have died on the streets. Without Pathways DC and the people here who believed in me, no matter what... I wouldn’t be here."|
A Place in the World
Stephen moved to DC from Alabama 5 years ago when his mother passed away. At the time, Stephen was still recovering from the death of his older brother. He had always relied on his mother and brother for support and guidance; losing both of them in such a short period of time made Stephen feel completely alone in the world, with no idea of how to carry on. His life soon spiraled out of control- his marriage fell apart, he lost contact with his daughter, and he was unable to hold down a job. Stephen was ready to give up on life once he found himself homeless. Homelessness takes on a completely different meaning the first night you sleep on the street; you completely lose any sense of hope you once had. There was no one for him to turn to and for the next five years, Stephen drifted along the streets of DC: eating out of trash cans, begging for money, and sleeping on park benches during the summer and on metro vents in the winter for warmth. To cope, he isolated himself from the world for fear of what others would think when they saw how dire his situation had become. Physically and emotionally, he did not think he could move on from the deaths of those closest to him and attempted suicide multiple times, wanting to end his pain and sadness. When you have nothing to look forward to- no dreams or goals- you completely lose any desire to live another day. After an intense encounter with a police officer, in which Stephen threatened to do harm to himself and others, he was admitted to St. Elizabeth’s for an assessment and diagnosed with bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. Because of the urgency of his situation, St. Elizabeth’s referred him to the organization that would best address his needs, Pathways to Housing DC.
Right away, Stephen joined a team at Pathways DC, who not only helped him address his mental health, but also ensured Stephen quickly found an apartment that fit his vision of what home could be. Within two days of working with his team, one of his case managers took him to view an apartment in Bloomingdale. The neighborhood was safe, close to the metro and a grocery store, and most importantly, within walking distance of his team at Pathways DC. When he was handed the keys to unlock his door, Stephen could not believe the moment was real. Because he was given housing first, Stephen was able to focus solely on his mental health. However, recovery for Stephen was a process and did not immediately happen. In the beginning, Stephen had trouble sticking to his goals, he was afraid to leave his home, and thought about suicide whenever he experienced a setback. Through every challenge, his team instilled the courage to take control of his life reminding Stephen that, “You can be somebody. You can do this. We’ll be here for you no matter what happens.” After multiple setbacks, trips to the hospital, and seeing how his team truly cared for Stephen, he decided that he wanted better for himself and knew that recovery was possible. Stephen’s psychiatrist, whom he regularly visited at Pathways, encouraged him to schedule a meeting with the Supported Employment team to discuss job opportunities. Initially sceptical about working with the Supported Employment team, he soon realized that they were there for him. The team listened to his interests, helped him create a resume and submit applications, all while reminding him that he was capable of succeeding and obtaining employment. Their support was unlike anything Stephen had experienced in many years. Stephen is now employed as a maintenance worker at a large department store downtown and takes pride in his work. It took a lot of courage and support for Stephen to realize that his life is worth living and that he is worthy of being happy. Though there are days where he struggles, he is content with where he is in his life. “I know I would have died on the streets. Without Pathways DC and the people here who believed in me, no matter what… I wouldn’t be here,” Stephen says while sitting at his dining room table in his new home – something just a few months ago, he never would have imagined possible.