This June (2014) will mark the close of my third year partnering with Pathways to Housing. During this time, I had the pleasure and challenge of housing dozens of participants, and watching the majority achieve their housing and ultimately life goals. These successes have not come without the tremendous perseverance and dedication of the support staff assigned to each individual client. Our mutual objective is to ensure a stable living environment where the client will thrive. This can be a grueling, exciting and rewarding process that requires us to constantly learn and grow, as we fine-tune and tweak our procedures for maximum positive results.
Although I have formed lasting bonds with many of the program participants, there is one who I have particularly fond memories of working with. Mr. Ibn Bailey was a character if there ever was one. He was a short, powerful man with dreadlocks and a million dollar smile. Mr. Bailey was a veteran that I first met at the Philadelphia Housing Authority, however, he wasn't smiling in that office. He was very tense as he sat and waited for his voucher. I introduced myself and extended my hand and he accepted reluctantly. He immediately asked if I boxed. I was surprised, but answered yes and showed him some pictures of my amateur fights I had on my phone. This would end up being the crux of our friendship. Every time I saw Mr. Bailey after that, whether it was at his lease signing or at the apartment complex where he lived, it was always boxing. He would assume his stance the moment he saw me. He was also a southpaw. At times I was worried he would actually throw punches, not out of malice, but because he was so excited.
He moved into a first floor one bedroom on Leiper Street in Frankford. It is a clean, well kept property that until our acquisition had been a distressed asset. Mr. Bailey was a site to see moving in. He had a couple trash bags, and he wore his trademark standard issue camouflage jacket that he wore everywhere. He quickly assimilated into the society that the tenants had formed in the complex. He would help elderly neighbors take their trash to the dumpster, and made sure the area of the courtyard around his apartment was pristine. When I got the call that Mr. Bailey has passed, it was surreal. He had many health issues, including seizures. It was comforting to know that he didn't die on the streets and that he had found a place to call home. We do not choose in life whose paths we cross, only how we remember when a truly good soul crosses it. Though our work can be very strenuous and even frustrating at times, tenants like Mr. Bailey especially underscore the importance of Pathway’s mission and our commitment to partnering with them to achieve it.
Jack Duncan has served as a landlord for Pathways' participants for 3 years.
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