Having just moved into his new apartment in early September, Jesse is certainly excited about having completed his journey out of homelessness. While he now thinks about things such as taking cooking classes, decorating his new apartment, or going out for karaoke, Jesse’s 44 years of living with disabilities and 5 years of homelessness made his journey from the streets to his new home very hard, yet all the more inspiring.
Jesse’s history with schizophrenia, a debilitating mental illness if left untreated, left him paranoid and angry, which led to issues with drugs and alcohol. Aside from auditory and visual hallucinations, Jesse’s health problems also include high blood pressure and diabetes, which were not diagnosed or treated until after he sought help at the ARCH. Despite his disabilities, Jesse is known to be a very hard worker and worked as a temporary laborer for years, before he was fired and his situation deteriorated. Jesse was homeless in Austin for 5 years, sleeping at the ARCH when he could, and under bridges or in a shack most nights, which further exacerbated his disabilities.
Jesse eventually sought help at the ARCH, applying for Case Management and deciding that he wanted to put an end to the years of hardship and homelessness. After being accepted into the program, he made it clear from the beginning that his goal was to get his own place. As he was no stranger to hard work, Jesse certainly “did the whole nine yards,” tackling the many tasks presented to him while also showing the courage to discuss his emotional past. His diligence allowed him to work through, and successfully complete the process in a relatively fast, one-year period.
The first step was to get a form of income, which took 7 weeks. He was then able to apply for a mobility bus pass, and food stamps. The task of waiting in line at the Trinity Center for assistance in obtaining identification was difficult for Jesse, who describes himself as shy, especially in noisy crowds of people. He showed similar resolve when he sought help with Austin/Travis County Integral Care, formerly the Mental Health/Mental Retardation outreach team (MHMR), to see his own doctor and maintain his own refills and appointments. Everyone who knows of Jesse’s story is proud of him for his hard work and accomplishments. He is 13 months sober and able to manage his disabilities and enjoy life.
During Case Management, Jesse diligently completed every single task presented to him, and he has had many “cheerleaders” who have watched his progress. He would like to thank all of the staff at the ARCH, including Candy, his case manager; Richard, the lawyer who helped him with Social Security Income; Kim who worked with him in the Streets of Hope program; Sharon, with the ATCIC access team collocated at the ARCH; as well as Mollie and other staff at Family Eldercare, who help him pay his rent, cable, and phone bills .
Jesse notes that this journey through various programs, organizations, and governmental agencies has been “tough” and takes “patience,” though the rewarding outcome is clear when he explains how, more recently, his “family came to visit him and talked all about how successful he is.”
He hopes that others will read this story, and look up to him for his hard work and conviction to never give up. After fighting through his disabilities to reach the goal of living on his own, Jesse is now closer to his family, and “doesn’t feel like an outcast” amongst the people in his life. He is looking forward to holiday gatherings, such as Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas, so he can enjoy family, and cooking food. Now in his new apartment, Jesse is safe and healthy and is able to manage his affairs.
Despite all of the barriers he faced, Jesse’s work with Front Steps allowed him to use his strong work ethic to reach his goal of having his own place. He is now on medication, has stabilized his diabetes, obtained Social Security Income, and is thrilled to have gotten his own efficiency apartment so he can enjoy daily life- cooking meals and listening to his favorite music, such as Earth, Wind, and Fire!
Congratulations to Jesse and all of those who have experienced the tragedy of homelessness, yet still persevered.