“What’s my favorite thing in my new house? It’s me!”
Brad isn’t what you typically think of when you picture the homeless. He’s never even spent a night sleeping on the ground or a bench outside.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t spend his time in the trenches.
Eight years ago Brad got divorced, and then soon after lost his house and everything he owned in a fire. Next he lost his job as a home health aide. Within a year Brad went from having a steady job with a wife and a house to losing everything, and turned to drugs and alcohol to dull the pain he was going through.
Fortunately he still had friends and family in the city, and was able to stay with people off and on while he struggled with homelessness and living in shelters.
While he was homeless, Brad learned the hard way where real help was available, and where it was just wishful thinking. With some programs, he would have to fight through crowds just to get a meal or attention from a case manager.
That’s why when Brad learned about Thrive DC, he was excited to find a place that could help him in lots of ways and give him personal attention.
“There are more resources on this side of town than in Southeast where the [801 East men’s] shelter is. At Thrive DC, this program is a lot – there’s the substance abuse group, job help, computer lab…getting the help you need is different here.”
“They also say ‘Good morning!’ when you walk in the door. That’s big. Having someone tell you good morning makes a big difference. Most places don’t do that for us.”
The substance abuse program was where Brad really started turning his life around. Dealing with addiction is a daily struggle, and he appreciated that Thrive DC’s program gave him options and didn’t just tell him what to do. He appreciated that someone like Gabriel, Thrive DC’s Substance Abuse Counselor, was on his side no matter what and offered him a safe place where he could get away from his addiction.
Thrive DC offered Brad a place to escape during the day from the drugs and alcohol around him, and the substance abuse program became a supportive environment to get him back on his feet. About 9 months after he started coming to Thrive DC he finally got into housing.
“Being able to cook and clean for myself is the best thing about being in a home. I’m a neat freak! I love being able to choose what I cook and keeping my space tidy just the way I like it.”
Right now, Brad is focused on getting his life back together. Now that he has a house, the next thing is getting re-certified as a home health aide and paying his own way. After relying on his friends and family for so long, he’s looking forward to being independent again.
“If I could say one thing to all the people who support Thrive DC, I would say ‘thank you.’ You really don’t know how much you are helping. You don’t see the progress, but if you help one of us you help all of us. Everyone is looking for a miracle, but they don’t come around every day.”
“But I got mine!”
It took Brad nine months with Thrive DC to get sober and get out of homelessness. For many clients it takes even longer than that.
Change takes time.
To support our clients and give them the time it takes to change, consider joining our Next Step Team as a monthly donor. Not only will your donations be easy and automatic, but the steady gift each month will give our clients a firm foundation to build from.
Cornell is 57 and lucky to be alive.
He got into drugs by smoking weed when he was just 13 years old; as he got older he moved onto harder things. His parents both did drugs, not that Cornell uses that as an excuse; but he recognizes that it was his environment that helped shape who he is.
That’s why he’s determined to change his environment now.
Cornell has been coming to Thrive DC since it opened in Columbia Heights, almost 10 years ago. He’s been homeless for even longer than that, bouncing between family members, shelters, and sleeping outside during the summer.
He wanted to live with family members, but didn’t for two reasons: he didn’t want to expose his nieces and nephews to his lifestyle, and his family wouldn’t put up with his drugs and joblessness.
But things didn’t start changing until he joined Thrive DC’s Substance Abuse group.
There he met Gabriel Fabre, the Substance Abuse Counselor. Gabriel accepted Cornell for who he was without judgment, but never stopped encouraging him to be better. And eventually, it was that combination of acceptance and encouragement that got through to him.
However, it still took months for Cornell to be ready for sobriety; before this he had lived in a fog for years, and was nervous about what it would mean to make a clean break from everything. Cornell had a long relationship with drugs and couldn’t envision life without them.
In fact, the first time Thrive DC offered him a chance at rehab he turned it down.
Finally, though, he was just too tired.
The second time Cornell had the chance for rehab he was bound and determined to make it happen. He called the facility for three days straight to make sure he could get in as quickly as possible.
Cornell graduated from his drug program January 4th, just in time for the New Year. For the first time in a long time he can think clearly. And since he’s been out, Cornell has been going to every meeting he can find, at Thrive and outside Thrive, to keep himself focused and away from the life he’s known for 44 years.
“I thank God for allowing me to reach 57. I’m still young enough for a second chance, to get a job and put a roof over my head.”
Our Substance Abuse Program is available in both English and Spanish. Along with educational presentations about the effects of substance abuse, it also offers a safe place for people with addiction to talk about their struggles with a supportive community.
Andre moved to DC last year in November from Tampa, FL. He had heard about a good job and had a friend he could stay with for a little while until he got on his feet.
But when he got here, both the job and the friend fell through.
That was hard.
Andre became homeless with no friends, no money, and no prospects for a job. He got involved with drugs while struggling to cope with his situation, but they only helped him sink further into frustration and depression.
Fortunately, it was some of those friends he was getting high with that told him about Thrive DC. Normally reserved and quiet, Andre checked out a few places before settling on Thrive DC.
He didn’t talk to anyone at first, but the hospitality of volunteers and staff drew him out bit by bit. He finally started opening up to Gabriel, the Morning Program Coordinator & Substance Abuse Counselor, and Gabriel encouraged him to come to group therapy.
It took a while for what Gabriel was saying during group to sink in. But Andre kept coming back to Thrive DC because of the encouraging staff and how helpful the services were.
This was the only place he could take a shower or do laundry.
This became the place he checked his mail.
The food here was good and plentiful.
One day Andre looked up in Gabriel’s substance abuse group and realized he didn’t want to get high anymore. He wanted to get clean, and he wanted to finish his college degree as a PC specialist!
Andre is still living in a shelter, but he’s attending school and will finish his degree next year. He’s been working on computers since he was 14; his dream is to one day own his own business and help customers with designing web pages.
He’s been clean now for four months. Andre is still coming to Thrive DC for services, and uses the computer lab to do his homework. For the first time in a long time, he’s excited about his future.
60 days ago. That’s when Vincent’s life changed.
“I felt like killing myself. I don’t want to feel that way no more.”
Vincent struggled his whole life with an addiction to drugs and alcohol. He would get a job and lose it. Live with a friend and lose that too when the drugs and money ran out. For the last 10 years he’s been homeless, living where he can to get by.
Through it all, Thrive DC was there with him.
“I’ve been coming to St. Stephen’s since I was 5 years old in day care, and I’m still coming here 40 years later. But Thrive DC has been a true blessing. It’s helping me so much.”
For the last couple of years, Vincent has been coming to Thrive DC every day. He’s talked to people about his addiction and been to rehab programs, but nothing worked. He never really believed he could get off drugs for good.
But when he met Gabriel, the new Substance Abuse Counselor at Thrive DC, that changed.
“Gabriel looked like an angel. He said ‘I’m going to help you. Just come to group. Just come.’”
“He showed me a better way. I thought I was going to die.”
After a couple of weeks Gabriel was able to convince Vincent to enter a 30 day treatment center. But he wasn’t quite ready.
“I told Gabriel I needed to get my clothes, my clothes. I didn’t want to lose them. He said that he would hold onto them for me. But I was so high, I walked out of the church to get my clothes and fell down the steps. I messed my hand up pretty badly and didn’t come back.”
Vincent later got arrested for drinking, and realized he had reached a “Do or Die” moment. When he was let out he immediately came back to Thrive DC. And Gabriel was waiting for him. Together they signed Vincent up for a 30 day treatment center and this time it stuck.
Vincent recently completed his program and couldn’t be happier. Gabriel has helped him get into 6-month transitional housing near Thrive DC, so for the first time in 10 years Vincent has a safe place to sleep at night and a support group just a few blocks away.
“Now that I’m clean, the plan is to work with Thrive DC to get a job, save my money, and get a place of my own. Then maybe I can help people like I was helped. Maybe be a counselor like Gabriel.”
“I hurt a lot of people with my addiction. I lost my family, I lost my daughter, but I’m going to get all of that back.”
Right now our community is working with Vincent to help him stay sober and find employment. We have six months until his time in transitional housing is up to get him back on his feet and stable.
You can be a part of his journey by donating $25 right now to support Vincent and clients like him. Or, if you want to provide consistent, steady support from homeless to housed, consider joining our Next Step Team as a monthly donor.
Anthony has lived in the District all his life, growing up in Mt. Pleasant when it was still a rough neighborhood. At 19 he was sent to prison for the first time, and it wasn’t until 2010 that he finally got out, experienced re-entry, and committed himself to changing his life for the better.
But with a prison record Anthony had a hard time applying for work, and without a job, eventually became homeless.
“I went to all the job fairs, and filled out hundreds of applications. But I couldn’t get past that one box: ‘Have you ever been convicted of a felony?’”
In 2014, Anthony found Thrive DC. With the help of the employment specialist, he enrolled in the Real Opportunity Training Program to become a professional chef. Despite being homeless when the program started, Anthony arrived on time every day and worked hard to make the most of his opportunity.
“Thrive [DC] has so much to offer. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of it all?”
Today, Anthony has found success as a full-time employee at a restaurant in Adams Morgan. With a consistent salary to look forward to, he is working with Thrive DC’s housing coordinator to find an apartment and become self-sufficient.
“This is just the beginning,” Anthony says. “There’s so much more I’m trying to do, so much more I want to do.”