How did you become homeless?
I was my father’s caretaker because he has Alzheimer’s. I decided to put him back in Pennysylvania because he was born there and had two brothers there and it seemed like it would help his illness, because he would have a lot to remember. We had been living together [and] I got a little bit from disability and then what he got from social security, we were able to afford the rent. But when he moved, [I couldn’t afford it anymore].
That must have been so hard, especially with your medical conditions…
Yeah, I’ve got the beginnings of Parkinson’s and I’ve got really bad arthritis all over, which also causes fibromyalgia pain and really bad migraines. When that happens, I shake on and off in my hands and my legs, which is why I’m in a chair.
How did you get off the streets?
Well, Access Living got me in a temporary place, but it’s not in the best area, so I’m trying to move out of there and my goal is to be with my son and his girlfriend. He got approved to be my caregiver, so he can clean and cook and stuff for me. I’m looking forward to that, because after I go home from StreetWise, I’m alone. [We found a place] and we’re hoping to move by April. With my son there and everything, it will be great.
I like your hat… you always seem to wear really silly hats. Why is that?
I like to wear goofy hats. For Christmas, I do the Santa hat and I’m looking right now for a St. Patrick’s hat. It keeps me spirited. I have a penguin and a bear that I wear during Bears season.
Do you have any other goals?
Once I get settled, I’d like to volunteer for a couple hours a week. Anything to help out [StreetWise or Access Living], whatever I could do. And since my dad is a veteran, I’d like to go out to either Jesse White or Hines Hospital and volunteer with them. We worked with Hines with my dad and they were wonderful.
Despite all you’ve been through, you’ve got a great attitude…
That’s one thing about me. Being an ex-medical assistant, I’ve worked with a lot of hospice people and my mom died really young of cancer and I know that this is not the worst I could be. That keeps me level-headed. I’ve seen worse and I know there’s worse out there. I am not bedridden yet, so I can get up and get my butt going.