Navigating SEPTA tunnels and the busy sidewalks of South Philadelphia is not an unfamiliar task to David. Adventuring for him comes in the form of tacos and pad-thai. David is a part of Restaurant Club, which is a way for participants to come together to explore new cuisines while building relationships with one another. This is only one small component of integrating community inclusion practices into our programming at Pathways to Housing PA.
On any given night, there are more than 6,200 homeless people in Philadelphia. Of those, more than 1,100 are sleeping outside. I was once one of those people.
I struggled with substance use and lived on the streets for more than 10 years before I came into contact with Pathways to Housing PA. I could have gone home to live with my mom but I wasn’t living right. I didn’t want to bring my problems to her. I couldn’t have gotten into a program – I was using every day.
With the official start of fall earlier this week, we are reminded that school has started and we're entering a season of change. At Pathways to Housing PA, we are no strangers to embracing change and encouraging our participants to do so as well. A part of rebuilding and reclaiming life starts with making decisions for yourself, which can sometimes be a huge step for our participants who have spent quite a lot of time with no control over their own lives.
I spoke to Susan on a Friday afternoon. She was dressed in spring colors, pastel pinks and blues, with her hair pulled back beneath a cap. She was going on a group outing that afternoon and I could tell she was looking forward to it. She introduced herself with a bright smile that reached all the way up to warm eyes, crinkled at the corners. Nervous, she began her story haltingly.
We are sitting in his studio apartment. I am on the sofa, and David is in his recliner, clearly his favorite place to sit. He’s angled slightly so that he can glance in my direction during the interview without having to completely take his eyes off of his television. An older model, but one of his prized possessions Renee tells me, the service coordinator from his team who has volunteered to accompany me to his home.
I really remember what happened. It was October 18th of this last year. I don’t know if I was walking across the street, or standing with a sign, I don’t know. I got hit by a car. But it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.