Jeff attends our Urban Engagement Book Club meetings every month. He has for over two years.
Jeff is a homeless guy--better, Jeff was a homeless guy. He is no longer!
"Thanks for the apartment," Jeff said Thursday, as we shook hands and greeted one another.
I didn't realize that he had joined our Destination Home initiative that uses HUD grant funds to place chronically homeless and disabled people into permanent supportive housing. We have funds for 50 units of this housing. So far, we've placed about 20 people, including Jeff.
Jeff is a writer. He's been working on a script for a play since I've known him. It's a production dealing with homelessness. No surprise there. Kind of hard to do much serious writing on the street it would seem to me.
As we celebrated his new home, we talked about finding him a computer so that he could work more efficiently on his play.
The "before" and "after" with Jeff was so striking.
Before, Jeff has always been present, but the dirt, fatigue and harshness of the street encased his body and dulled his soul in ways I know I cannot comprehend. His hair was always dirty and matted. His clothes filthy and a mess.
After finding a home, Jeff's hair was still long and silver, but clean and shiny. His clothes matched his hair! He had a brightness about him I had not seen before. He told me he was sleeping like he hadn't slept in years. Sleep as a new blessing. . .wow. Blessing and beauty in the really simple things, huh?
Duh! Having a place to call "home" makes a big difference.
Try to imagine life without that, Larry!
Confession time: I take just about everything for granted.
Gotta tell you, tears filled my eyes as I took in his gratitude and joy! I'm so proud for him and of him.
What a great friend. Of course, that was true before he found his new home.
He's also a textbook example of the simple, immediate and powerful benefits of "housing first" as a model of care and response to most people who are homeless.
I'm also very grateful for the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for their grant funds that we've worked so hard to land.
I know there will be more stories like Jeff's.
And, I'll let you know when the play is done and when auditions begin!