Giovanni’s Second Story: “in charge”

Giovanni’s Second Story: “in charge”

Although Giovanni works in 90-degree heat rolling fiber for twelve hours each evening, his attitude remains surprisingly positive. Mostly because, as he says, he is “in charge of my own life.”

Giovanni Garden Mural

Giovanni helps create a mural in the UMC Community Garden

He didn’t always feel that way. After his family lost their home to eviction, Giovanni eventually found himself in our Statesville Shelter. For over two years. During that time, he lived a life of restlessness, a life without privacy. He lived a life in close quarters with men he didn’t know, some snoring and some not caring as much as he did about hygiene. He lived by a set of rules that he had no control over.

During his homelessness, Giovanni sought out opportunities to be organized and constructive with his time. He credits programs offered at our day services center, ArtWorks, RunningWorks, and our former soccer program, with helping him stay positive and in good energy. He easily could have fallen into the toxic hopelessness that can affect those experiencing homelessness. Occasional work led to limited income, but never enough to make it on his own. Never enough to end his homelessness. He didn’t see a way out. . .yet.

Andre Thurmond

Andre Thurmond, Rapid Rehousing

In fact, Giovanni’s case-manager, Rapid Re-housing (RRH) Director Andre Thurmond says when they first started discussing a plan for him to exit the shelter in 2018, it involved a tent and a place in the woods Giovanni had discovered while riding the bus. But of course, Andre had bigger dreams for Giovanni.

With their consent, Andre arranged for Giovanni and two other shelter guests to share a rental. Because the RRH team uses a Housing First approach, housing was offered with no preconditions. The only expectation is that eventually each would have to become self-sufficient and cover their own portion of rent and expenses.

Giovanni was unemployed, but now had his own space, a secure place for his items, and could focus on getting beyond his daily basic needs. In December of 2018, he began rolling fiber on 3rd shift. He has barely deviated from this schedule since then. With his own place, he finds it easy to maintain consistent work, have clear thoughts, and stay focused.

Giovanni home

Giovanni at home

When Giovanni reflects on his experience with homelessness and the help that was offered, he says, “It’s like having glasses when you cannot see.” He credits the programs, the staff, and the volunteers who helped him make a change. Without them he thinks his exit from homelessness would have been “hit or miss.” And Andre who first prodded Giovanni to make a move, says, “He was ready to live in a tent, so he’s the last client I expected to pay his rent online!”

Andre is proud of Giovanni and so are we. We know that every person has the potential to rewrite their own story.

Trish Fries
Trish Fries
tfries@urbanministrycenter.org
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