“There are angels walking this earth – and she’s one of them,” Mr. Washington says about his case manager, Connie. They’ve been working together since she helped get him into housing about two years ago – during the early days of the pandemic.
“It was so eerie on the streets back then,” he recalls. “No people. No nothing. It was like the twilight zone.” By that point, Mr. Washington had been living on the streets off and on for about 15 years. He was a seasoned pro at finding quiet places to sleep, often stairwells and garages. But one morning in 2020 he was discovered sleeping in his “good spot” near a gourmet grocery store and told not to return. Then he got a phone call that changed his life: Roof Above’s scattered site housing team had found him a home.
“I thought it was a nice-looking place,” he recalls. “I said, ‘How many of us are gonna be living in there?’” He could hardly believe his good fortune when he learned the one-bedroom apartment was his very own. At age 63, it’s the first time he’s had a home all to himself.
He’s risen to the challenge of the new start. “He keeps it spotless,” Connie says. As far as cooking goes, Mr. Washington jokes he’s a “microwave specialist.” But he enjoys plants and landscaping, and he likes rearranging his furniture. He’s proud of himself for making it on his own. “I used to think I couldn’t make it without a woman,” he admits. “I had to have someone there.”
Connie has helped him set and achieve one goal after another – using the same work ethic he applied when he drove a tractor-trailer and worked in construction. He obtained his driver’s license and got a truck of his own. He persevered through the process of applying for disability benefits. Dedicated to taking the medication that helps him manage his mental health, his next goals are related to caring for his health and his teeth.
Covid, he realizes now, was a great equalizer. “It didn’t matter what you had – or what you didn’t have. Whether you were living in a park bench or on Park Avenue. We were all in harm’s way.”
Two years later, the way it all worked out – finding a home amidst the pandemic – still feels to him like a little miracle. “Out of a storm – that’s when God shows up,” Mr. Washington says. “Out of a storm comes a blessing.”