His eyes were yellow, his head hunched low, and his pants hung down around his knees as he shuffled along K Street, NW. Bill was a familiar face in downtown DC and after cycling through homelessness, jail, and treatment programs for more than two decades, Bill had gained a troublesome reputation in the downtown community.
When Bill first met with our Homeless Street Outreach Team in November 2012, he was disengaged from social services and wrapped up in the criminal justice system. Having experienced homelessness for almost 25 years, he had all but given up on getting help, let alone housing. “I am tired of getting shuffled around and pushed to the end of the line,” Bill initially told the outreach team. The team knew his story was complex, but believed that with his own stable and safe place to live and the right kind of supports, Bill’s future could look very different than the one he was currently facing.
The team worked together to build trust and rapport with Bill, while simultaneously collaborating with other city agencies about his case. They went with him to his appointments and advocated for his medical and housing needs. Even when Bill was in crisis, the team worked with the police to get him his medication rather than another arrest. In the weeks that followed, Bill’s health continued to decline so the team worked diligently to find him access to better medical treatment as well as a place to live. Before long, they successfully connected him with comprehensive mental health services and located a unit for him to view.
On the day Bill went to see his new apartment, he walked in slowly, tightly wrapped up in his blankets with a scared and uncertain expression. But after a tour of the building, a smile proudly beamed from Bill’s face and he declared that he was ready to do his laundry and take a nap in his own bed for the first time since the early 1990s.
Welcome home, Bill!