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One Man's Story

posted Sep 24, 2015, 2:26 PM by Barb Buhs   [ updated Dec 21, 2015, 10:00 PM ]
Working His Way Back to Independence in Madison County IL

Out of the “pitch black,” Brian G is transforming his life.

As he describes it, Brian’s life since being connected to the Madison County Community Development (MCCD) Transitional Housing program is like going from the pitch black into the light. He said, “I have gone from seeing just a crack of light to (living in) full light.”

“I came in here bashful, carrying a bag,” he explained, “and now I have something that I keep and protect, that I am proud of.” Brian is talking about the apartment he has been living in since January.

Currently, seventeen families and three individuals participate in the Transitional Housing program in Madison County, IL, according to David A Harrison, planner for Madison County Community Development.

In recent years, Brian didn’t know where he would lay his head. When he found a place, maybe a friend’s couch for a few days, he never knew when someone was going to tell him he had to leave.

Other times, he slept on the streets with little more than the clothes on his back. When he called MCCD in January, he was weary.

“At this point, I was about to give up,” he said, looking directly at me. “And, Patricia said, ‘Come in. Let’s talk.’”

Brian is referring to Patricia Williams, a counselor for WellSpring Resources who works specifically with participants of the county’s Transitional Housing program.

As Harrison explains, “the success of the Transitional Housing Program can be attributed to intensive case management. Without the case manager guiding the program participants through the difficult task of rebuilding their disrupted lives, the cycle of homelessness would most likely continue.

“However,” Harrison continued, “success lies with the participants themselves. The desire to improve their situations will ultimately determine their success.”

When Brian made the call to Patricia, he had already tried a few other places. The Salvation Army offered him food but the shelter was full. It seemed all the calls he made were dead ends. But with Patricia, Brian found shelter and much more.

“When I came in to talk with Patricia, I knew she was going to tell me there wasn’t any way she could help me,” Brian began his story. “But, after the first time we talked, I felt hope. And, after the second interview, I thought things might start to change. I didn’t know when, but I could hold on because I saw that there might be a chance for me.”

Brian explained that he knew the opportunity the Transitional Housing program offered was not easy to come by. “They wanted my reassurance, my honesty. They wanted to know what I wanted to do to get on track with my life.”

The relationship started with just talking. During the last seven months the two have learned to trust each other. With Patricia’s support, Brian is well on his way to a permanent solution to living on the street.

The Madison County Transitional Housing program provides participants with a place to call home. And, it does much more. It supports people with resources and information to build a better life. They are given skills that will ensure their successful transition to independence.

“I am on my way,” Brian said and smiled. “I get up every day and work on getting ready for my GED, and filling out job applications. I am working on getting my driver’s license. I meet with Patricia. I take the bus to appointments, and then I go back to my place, where I have my own dishes, my own furniture. I have a place to lay my head.”

Brian is grateful to Patricia and the Transitional Housing program for the security of living in a safe place. The support to get on his feet and back to work is something Brian does not take for granted. “I am so focused. When someone gives you a place to stay, helps you out, you feel like ‘watch this, watch me, see where I can go.’”

“I can work now, because I can get there on time.” He explained, noting the difficulty in working steadily when you are relying on other people for rides.

Brian is careful to express his appreciation for the friendship and guidance he is receiving. “I never had a birth certificate before. With Patricia’s help, I have a birth certificate now.”

“Brian is working very hard. He is going to do well,” Patricia said.

As another example, Brian explained that he is carefully planning purchases for necessities, like groceries and laundry soap. The program provides vouchers for food, clothing, and household items.

“Budgeting is a life skill people aren’t necessarily taught. They think, ‘I want this.’ But, they should think about what they need,” he said.

In the Transitional Housing program, a participant may require services for education, mental health issues, chemical dependency, or other issues which contributed to their homelessness.

“We have seen great success stories in the program,” Patricia shared. “We have single participants and families. We have mothers who finish school and maintain work. We have some who leave our program early. They are doing very well.”