Interview with Mark, a Housing 1000 Client

Meet Mark, a 56-year-old veteran and Housing 1000 client.

I became homeless when my wife kicked me out of the house. At the time I was deep into gambling. I’m bipolar, and people who have bipolar disorder are more likely to have a gambling problem. The rush makes you feel better when you’re down. It got to the point where my wife wouldn’t allow me back in the house. I’d been living with her and my 12-year-old step-daughter, at the time. She’s 19 now.

I have a 21-year-old son from my first marriage who I haven’t seen since he was 14. I’m rekindling my relationship with him right now, but it’s been hard. I haven’t come through for him when I said I would, and that takes time to heal. He’s in college, now, learning about computer animation.

After becoming homeless I was in shelters on and off, and at one point I moved to Stockton to take care of an ailing fellow veteran who had melanoma. He battled it for nine months. I was with him until the end.

I came back to Redwood City and I found out that I’d gotten a HUD VASH voucher. So I got an apartment. I lived there for about seven months, until I couldn’t afford my rent anymore—HUD VASH doesn’t accommodate child support, and at the time I was paying $441 per paycheck. I was working and working and working for nothing. At the end of the day I had $70 left over for food, insurance and other expenses, and it just wasn’t enough to live on. So I became homeless again. It was terrifying, and there was no end in sight.

After that I enrolled in classes for veterans with Goodwill. Thanks to their help I got my current job with Creative Security! I was still living in Redwood City at that time. They would drive me there and back which made a huge difference, but it was still a three-hour commute each way. I worked the midnight to 6am shift six nights a week.

I had an epiphany back in February of 2011, and the epiphany was that I had to change. I had to give up gambling and get right with God. I had to really get my act together.

And I did. I’ve kept my nose to the grindstone, I’ve gone to work. I’ve tried to be nice to people, and just to give back as much as I possibly can. Being bipolar means I have ups and downs, but I take medication, and I’m pretty much evened out. My faith in God has helped me be able to weather all storms. I still get depressed, but my faith in God and Jesus as my Lord and Savior has saved me from having to worry about everything that’s going on in this world.

Last August I got surveyed for Housing 1000, and in April I got this place. I feel so blessed. My favorite part about having my own place is coming and going as I please. In the shelter you’re very constrained—for good reasons, but it gets old. I enjoy having privacy, and having a sense of belonging is also very major. Shelters are great but they can be very isolating. I’m a people person, and I like getting to know my neighbors.

I feel like I’ve been swimming underneath the current for so long, and I’m just trying to get my head above water. It gets wearisome, but my faith keeps me going. I’ve been at my current job with Creative Security for 15 months. They just bumped me up to full-time—over full-time, actually. My schedule is five 9-hour days, which means five hours of overtime a week! I’ve also worked with my case manager to lower my payments to $135 per paycheck. I’m very grateful and very appreciative to have a job, and to be able to pay my rent.

Working with Housing 1000 has been fantastic. It all happened so fast. I started looking at places with my case manager and then all of a sudden I’m paying my own rent, I’m cooking my own meals. They helped me find a landlord who doesn’t worry about your credit, and I have bad credit so that would have been a huge barrier. They’ve done a great job.

My Housing 1000 case manager, Tonya, is a gem. I can’t say enough nice things about her. If I need anything, I can ask her. She helped me find my apartment, she helped me get a background check for my current job, and she’s just so approachable. She’s as busy as a one-armed paperhanger, but she always makes herself available. I really respect and admire that.

Housing 1000 is committed to helping the homeless get housed and stay housed. They’ve been exactly what I needed. Housing 1000 has really stood behind me and made sure that I’m getting through this rocky time. Thank God for Housing 1000.

Everybody has worked so diligently with me and I’m just incredibly grateful. Housing 1000 has given me a new lease on life. They came along and gave me an opportunity, and I want to make the best of it that I possibly can.

Interview conducted by Katherine and Alejandra.

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About K.A. Erickson

I worked with Housing 1000 (http://www.housing1000sv.org/) from August 2011 until July of 2012 as an Americorps VISTA member. I am the ghost of Katherine past! I wrote a couple interviews to post automatically even after I left--from beyond the grave, as it were. ;) My current blog talks about fiction writing, world travel and other adventures: http://feistynotes.wordpress.com/
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