“I know about homelessness,” said Donnie who struggled with it “on and off” for 10 years.
“I am an alcoholic, but I was always able and willing to work. I always worked and tried not to look homeless. My life might have been easier if I had quit drinking all together, but drinking is not the main reason I was homeless.”
Unfortunately, Donnie developed a medical issue that has resulted in him not being able to do the physical type of work he did in the past. He currently receives disability benefits; a situation Donnie hopes is temporary.
Since the disability is preventing Donnie from getting a job, he chose to further his education. He is about to complete his junior year at the University of Louisville where he is pursuing a degree in social work. “I couldn’t work so I decided to go back to school to get a degree that will help me get a job that will eventually get me out of Section 8.”
Donnie just became a Section 8 housing client a couple of months ago. That means he did so well in St. John Center’s permanent supportive housing program that he is now able to manage his own life without the assistance of a case manager. Nonetheless, Donnie would prefer to have a job that pays well enough that he will need no housing assistance at all.
Once he has an undergraduate degree Donnie would like to enroll in U of L’s accelerated master’s program in social work. “I have a population I’d like to help. Since I have been a substance abuser I have a lot of knowledge and experience that I can pass along to others,” said Donnie.
He knows well the challenges faced by the homeless and marginalized. “I would like to advocate for people who have fallen through the cracks. They often find themselves in an abyss that they can’t escape,” he said. “The working poor don’t have a chance. A lot of companies use temporary labor and even if you have a job, there is no free medical insurance anymore. Rent is high and rooming houses are often dangerous. Interest rates are very high for poor people who have a bad credit rating or have never used credit.”
Although he was first housed by St. John Center in January 2010 Donnie has been in his current apartment for a couple of years now. He credits housing for turning his life around. “It gives me peace of mind and privacy. Housing helped a lot with me getting into college. When you have an apartment you can lock your door to keep people from bothering you. You know you are safe.”
While Donnie has always enjoyed the support of his family, having an apartment has been good for that relationship. They are able to visit him at his apartment. Donnie is a college hoops fan and he has enjoyed watching his grandson play basketball for his high school team. Donnie is also a grandfather and will soon be a great grandfather.
There’s no telling what Donnie’s life will look like in 10 more years.