Ed was in foster care since he was 2 years old. He bounced through 20 different homes and five different group homes. At age 20, he found SaintA’s Independent Living Services, and his life totally changed.
For three years Ed has been a participant in the Supportive Permanent Housing program, which provides housing, the daily needs of life and case management to individuals who are dealing with mental health challenges and are at risk of being homeless.
“When I got here, I was nervous and worried about stuff because of what happened in all those different homes,” Ed said, as he sat in an easy chair beside ILS supervisor Jane Doolan on a sunny afternoon and related his story.
“I was real quiet back then. I was going through a lot of stress. When I realized they weren’t here to hurt me, I started opening up, sharing my story with them.”
Thinking about his former life brings tears to Ed’s eyes, and he doesn’t want to share details. It’s enough to say that Ed survived “overwhelming life circumstances” and a history of trauma, Jane said.
What shocked Ed most when he came to SaintA, he said, was his realization that the ILS team could be like a family to him.
“At first I didn’t believe this could be like a family, like I never had. And I turned into one of the family members.”
Ed remembers a time when the ILS team surprised him on his birthday. They brought him stress-reducing gifts, a cake, and played a few competitive rounds of “Battleship” with him. He was overwhelmed, he said; he had never had a birthday celebration before. The team even cleaned his place and did his laundry.
Then the whole team made an effort to just hang out with him as much as possible, taking him to movies, the Museum, playing video games with him. One team member brought her dog along for a walk in the park.
“I said, ‘Let’s make a plan to be with Ed,’” Jane said. “And the team started shouting, “I want to do this. I want to do this.’ We all wanted to hang out with Ed because he’s a joy to hang out with!
“I feel sad that those in his history didn’t pay attention to him. You just have to open your eyes and see he’s a gift.”
In addition to housing, casework, and a lot of compassion and caring, ILS has helped Ed with food and transportation (bus passes). They also helped him get into a program that gave him job skills. Ed started working at Walmart as a janitor but has progressed to stocking and working on the floor with customers. He’s saving money now. ILS also is helping him get a driver’s license, with a driving class.
Jane said his progress with ILS has had ups and downs, but the one thing that remains constant is Ed’s gratitude and thoughtfulness.
“He leaves lots of notes saying thank you for this or that. He’s a man of heart, integrity and love.”
Ed recently asked Jane if it was time to move out of ILS. She was initially confused as to what he meant, then she realized that in his past, he went from house to house and never stayed in one place for very long.
“Now this is a stable environment for me,” Ed said with a big grin.
Ed has gained a great level of independence and confidence, and he smiles a lot more, Jane said. But he also knows when he needs help. And that’s “a really nice balance.” He has had some difficulties with his biological family, she said, but he also has learned how to set boundaries.
“I was shy and I’m kind of getting out of that,” Ed said. “I’ve learned a lot, not to be defensive. I learned I have people who will help me out and how to do stuff on my own.
“Without ILS I’d probably be dead or in jail.”
Ed hopes one day down the road to own a house and start a family.
“But I will always keep in touch (with ILS) because they helped me out with my life. This program has made me ready for all that.”
Jane said she and her team have gained a lot from their relationship with Ed as well.
“Ed is one reason I come to work every day, because some day I know he’s going to call me when I’m an old lady and say, ‘I got that house; I have a couple of kids.’
“And I’m going to say, ‘What’s the address? I’m coming over for a cup of coffee!’
“Ed’s got a lot to be proud of. This is a man of character, a man of resilience!”