Please read the excerpt below; this was written by a staff member about a gentleman we worked with for many years and who was able to move into a home of his own. This is just a glimpse into one person’s journey and how we are able to foster hope because everyone deserves to have their own home and food on their plate.
“Like the people who visited my Grandma, it often took more than one visit to move from small talk to real talk. It took more than one bowl of jello salad for a visitor to find the courage to admit they deserved to be comforted, understood, and not defined by their past. To be honest, Rocky quit visiting Dorothy Day for a few months after his comment about the handkerchief. When he returned, I assumed we were back to our previous agreement to be nonverbal, but he poured me a cup of coffee and asked me to sit down. He told me about a situation from 30 years ago that irked him. He told me the same story the next day. And the next week. And the next month. After a year of hearing this story, I was ready to go back to the silence. I used every motivational interviewing skill I could think of, and it felt like we were getting nowhere.
And then one day, as he was telling me the story, and I was thinking that I even knew his pauses by heart, I was startled by the odd image of wetness on his face. A single tear emerged from his discerning eyes, rolled down his chapped cheek bone, and landed on the table between us. He held a pause and then continued to tell a part of the story he’d never spoken of before – a part so secret it was like his words were cascading out, neither of us knowing what would come next. The life he once lived was scarier than most things anyone could imagine. His voice shook as he recalled how he used to cope and how it caused him to lose beloved people. When his words stopped, the tears continued, and I was brought back to so many years ago, when I would cuddle into my Grandpa’s chest and try to understand how one person could have been hurt so much, gone on to hurt other people, and then have transformed into such a perfectly healing presence.
More than a shower every day, more than coffee, and perhaps even more than housing, Rocky needed Dorothy Day. He needed time to let himself speak the secrets that haunted him. He needed love to realize that he too deserved comfort. His memories were unyielding brigades attacking his mind. He needed the space to be able to move forward on his own accord.
And he did. After almost a lifetime of homelessness, Rocky moved into housing. In five days from the date I write this (1.26.15), he will have been living in his own apartment for a whole year. I cannot explain his journey in simple statistics. I cannot quantify the exact things we did to help him. But I know Dorothy Day’s table, like the one in my grandparent’s kitchen, is covered in coffee stains and tears. Their presence, like heartbeats, drum out the comfort that everyone is perfect. Everyone is deserving. And together everyone can find the courage to be loved and make a lasting impact on their own lives.”
"A few years ago I made some very poor decisions that caused harm to some good and loving people. These decisions were illegal in nature and as a result I served time in some of Minnesota's finest prisons, where I did a lot of thinking and some treatment along the way. I have since then learned about myself and how to make wiser and better informed decisions about how I act or really get to act in society and in this community. Prior to going to prison, I served 4 years in the military and was honorably discharged. So it is via these experiences which brought me to the state of being homeless, which was a consequence of the latter experience. I have found myself in the good graces of the Dorothy DAY House on the merit I earned being a veteran of the U.S. military.
Being a homeless veteran I have found a few advantages, one huge one was finding this place [Dorothy Day]. I had a roof over my head and a place to rest my head, so I was not a burden to the community. The Dorothy Day House helped me to work on my goals for my wellbeing and ways to get back on my feet. They also gave me a sense of purpose there by giving us [Guests] chores to do, perhaps a way for us to give back for the wealth of care that the Dorothy Day House gives freely. I have taken the pride and charity that these fine people have given me and I have tried to return it to the fullest of my ability by helping out with snow shoveling or ice removal. I have found that if I take more pride in myself and my surroundings my life is more fulfilling.”
Rodney was able to successfuly find and secure housing, which he has kept to this day. He continues to strive toward bettering his life situations, and sometimes stops in to Dorothy Day to update us on how he is doing. Below is the day Roday recieved the keys for his (then) new apartment.
"I showed up one day at Dorothy Day in the middle of winter with no place to go and nothing but the shirt on my back. While living here, I had a medical situation, which Dorothy Day House was understanding about, and they worked with me on my goals, which were to get better mentally and physically. When I got here I was barely walking and used a cane. Now I have no cane and bike and my health is getting a lot better.
Dorothy Day House helped me find a place to stay. I broke a record here, it took a little over a year. Now my life is pretty stable and I have a place of my own. The biggest impact the program had on me was helping me get my life back on track, working with me, and being very patient. I had never been in another shelter here before, but people came here and talked. They say there’s no comparison as far as structure. It’s a no drugs or alcohol, family oriented atmosphere.
“A last change for me was getting me back to a part of my life I didn’t have. They helped me get back with my family and helped keep me away from drugs and alcohol. I was never a religious person before, now I go to church and use different [community] things to help me succeed. This has impacted my future.”
Before coming to the Dorothy Day House he had been homeless many times throughout his 66 years of life. Now he has successfully been in his own apartment for over 6 months! Cliff now volunteers in the community several times a week and stops by the shelter to keep in touch with us. Below is a picture of Cliff during his shopping trip before moving into his own new place!