Written by: Geremi James, LSW
Two years ago, when I first started at BSM as a Concierge (case manager), I began working with a young man who had already faced a lifetime of challenges despite only being 22 years old. He shared that he had been coming to BSM since 2013 and had been homeless on and off since childhood.
Being street homeless means you have to fight hard just to survive. One such time resulted in our young guest going to prison, which in turn led to him being placed on probation. His first year of probation was full of challenges, but wanting to build a new life for himself he began making efforts to pursue a college education. The everyday difficulties of homelessness, alongside managing the responsibilities of probation, did not make the road ahead an easy one to travel. Higher Education is hard enough without the added burden of having to find a safe place to study or to hide your books while living on the streets.
A year ago we found an opportunity for him to enter a specialized shelter program reserved for the most chronic of Philadelphia’s homeless. Even this victory had a dark glimpse into the past. As it turned out, this shelter happened to be located on the very step where his mother, years before, had abandoned him for the first time. This shelter represented the first point of his entry into the homeless services system.
Nevertheless, the story I’m telling today is one of dedication and perseverance. Despite the road being bumpy and unpredictable, there have now been several triumphs to celebrate.
We are proud and humbled to say that this shelter is now his last point of entry into “the system”. In April, he moved into his first apartment—an apartment that embodies the hope he has held onto all these years. He has now successfully completed his first year of college! And not only has he built a strong network of supporters at BSM, but he brings new folks in through our doors, connecting them to a new community of people in the same way he was connected years ago. The road ahead is rough for so many of our guests, but not having to walk it alone can make a world of difference.
Note: Personal names were not used in this story to protect the privacy of our guests