Ending Up Outside
Duane had a successful career in construction. He worked hard, and when he wasn’t working, he enjoyed himself. Over time, he followed a pattern that had been recurring over generations in his family. He became addicted to drugs.
Gradually, his health began to deteriorate. Then he got fired when his boss learned about his drug use. In his 60’s, in poor health, and drug-addicted, he was unable to find a new job.
Over time, he ran out of money and out of friends. Then he was evicted. He spent his first night homeless in the rose garden at Lake and Oak in Evanston.
Duane heard about Connections from others who were homeless. He came in looking for a place to shower, do laundry, and get some advice. He was admitted to the shelter and assigned a case manager.
As Duane puts it, the case manager “ran him ragged,” directing him to get his ID, go to 12 Step meetings, see the nurse, attend shelter groups, etc. He talked of getting Duane into permanent housing.
Once Duane started receiving disability benefits because of his serious health issues, Connections helped him find an apartment and a roommate, another man that had been homeless.
Last summer, Duane started a garden in the back yard. At the agency picnic in August, he shared the cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce he had grown. Now he has acquired a community plot near his home and is leading participants in Connections’ Supportive Housing Program to cultivate it. He is particularly happy about teaching the kids in the program about gardening, since this is one happy childhood memory that he can pass on.
Duane also has made a point to include roses in his garden—to remind him of how far he has come since his first night on the streets. As he states in our video, “I’m alive. I have a life to live.”