This month he celebrates his year anniversary off the streets as a resident of Encanto Pointe, a Phoenix permanent supportive housing apartment complex. I am proud of how far he has come and want to share his story of hope as we embark on a New Year.
Lawrence’s story begins much like many of ours: A hard worker, he rose many days at 3 a.m. for heavy-lifting jobs. As his mother’s health declined, he left it all and returned home and became her dedicated caregiver. When she passed away, he lost everything including his home which led him to experience homelessness.
Today he is grateful for a roof over his head, and walls to hang family photos. He is thankful to wake up in a warm bed, not covered in frost – a common occurrence last winter.
Permanent supportive housing isn’t just a place to live. It provides on-site support services to help individuals who experience chronic homelessness address complex issues such as a disability, substance abuse or mental illness.
Lawrence has taken giant steps forward. He is two months sober. He will join a vocational rehabilitation program and receive help with his job search. He has improved his health, which deteriorated on the streets, where he was robbed, assaulted and repeatedly treated at hospital emergency rooms.
As he proudly shared with me how far his life has transformed in the past year, Lawrence pulled off his cap to demonstrate that for the first time in 26 years, he has a short haircut. It’s a tribute to his new life and upcoming job hunt. Now he goes outside, not because he has to, but to hike local mountains and continue to improve his health.
Lawrence is a humble Arizona native who shyly admits to his love of poetry and carving kachina dolls. His two years living on the streets are captured in notebooks he keeps close to him.
He wants to help others rebuild their lives and their independence and end homelessness for the men and women he recognizes daily on the rugged streets. In his own words: “I have a second chance, and for the first time in my life am taking care of me. I want my story to give others hope. I want everyone to know that no one – not I, or an individual still on the streets - is defined by homelessness.”
Help us bring others like Lawrence home:
Amy Schwabenlender is Vice President of Community Impact for Valley of the Sun United Way. She leads United Way’s Community Objective to End Hunger and Homelessness in Maricopa County and serves on a variety of community boards including the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) Continuum of Care Regional Committee on Homelessness.