Before finding the agency, Allen worked at a manufacturing plant south of Chicago for many years. He ended up losing his job and found himself without a home due to financial and personal problems. He described the difficulty of not having a place to live: “When I was homeless I was angry, lonely, and disgusted. I kept asking ‘Why did this happen to me?’ I felt so low.” While out on the streets a bus and then a car hit him, causing severe injuries. These and other ordeals brought Allen to the agency as a guest at our Emergency Overnight Shelter in the Autumn of 2006. He worked with different staff to secure his own apartment and stabilize his life. He credits his case manager with “helping me get into programs I didn’t even know about.” He was linked to Thresholds, a well-respected mental health provider. Allen shared, “NSHSS and Thresholds always checked up on me and helped me keep my appointments. They also got me my medicines.”
“I have my own apartment now. I’m living like a normal single man.”
Currently, Allen is one of the better known participants in the Supportive Housing Programs. He pays 30% of his income toward rent and can boast that he holds his own lease. He remarked, “This is much better than staying on the streets, sleeping on benches in the cold, rain, sleet and snow. My apartment has appliances. I have lots of food. I have independence and privacy now.” Today you can find Allen in the Lakeview neighborhood taking walks, at the library, in bookstores or in the YMCA gym exercising. When he runs into strangers or friends in the neighborhood, he quickly puts them at ease with his gentle people skills. After all he has experienced, he knows how important it is to “treat people like I want to be treated.” His keen sense of humor and droll wit brings joy to those lucky enough to converse with him. “Allen has a special way of endearing himself to others,” his case manager attested.
Reflecting on the last several years, Allen came to a conclusion: “After what I’ve been through, I’m lucky to be alive.” More importantly, however, “I’m glad to be alive.”