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“I didn't think I was going to make it at times. I was ready to give up on myself.”
No one ever expects to be living in a homeless shelter. But for the millions of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, homelessness is only one medical emergency or missed week of work away.
Fifty-nine year old Theresa never thought it would happen to her. She was working nights as a nursing assistant at a nursing home and renting a room with her boyfriend until back and leg injuries forced her to leave her job. Unable to pay her rent at the rooming house, Theresa found herself sleeping in shelters at night and searching the city during the day for a comfortable place to sit, and a meal to eat. Theresa was suffering from Hepatitis C, and the three years she spent in the shelter was hard on her physically and emotionally. Remembering those times, Theresa says, “I didn't think I was going to make it at times. I was ready to give up on myself.”
While at Long Island Shelter one evening, Theresa met her first Elders Living at Home Program caseworker, and started the long road back to getting on her feet. ELAHP worked with Theresa to apply for housing and soon moved out of the shelter. That was over six years ago.
Theresa loves her apartment in her safe, clean, and quiet neighborhood in Brookline Village. She recently had her two and a half year old great-grandson over for a visit for the first time. They had a wonderful time playing in the park near her apartment, and she can't wait to have him visit again. She takes the train and bus to visit her ailing mother in Quincy when she can. She knows that if she needed anything, she could pick up the phone and her ELAHP caseworker would be there for her. She says, “I call them my angels. They brought me back to life when I felt like I was dying.”
Theresa acknowledges that she has spent too much of her life neglecting her own physical and mental health. Today, Theresa is focused on taking care of herself. She says, “I'm a much happier person today, and I owe a lot of it to ELAHP. They've been a godsend. My whole demeanor has changed for the better. I don't know where I would be now if it weren't for ELAHP.” She has several specialists for her Hepatitis C and emphysema, and she sees a mental health counselor. ELAHP staff visit her at home occasionally, and check up with her on the phone. She says, “ELAHP is the right program for anybody as long as you want to put the work into it. Say your prayers and keep your faith. I'm living proof that this program works.”