54-year-old Gary is a talented chef, father of 8, and devoted son. When you meet Gary, his smile lights up the room. He’s humble, kind, and funny. Gary earned an associate’s degree in accounting, but fell in love with the restaurant industry, where he’s spent most of his career.
A family dispute and alcohol use led Gary to homelessness at age 49. For nearly five years, he lived in a tent at a nearby encampment. He continued working at restaurants despite the enormous challenges his lack of housing imposed – showers, laundry, and an address – to name a few. He also faced harsh judgment because of his lack of housing. Over the years, SOS outreach staff connected with Gary to ensure he had access to food and encouraged him to seek treatment or shelter. During cold winter months, Gary found comfort and warmth at Code Blue.
Gary reflects back on living in a tent, a place he wishes never to return. “The worst day I ever had was my birthday. It was pouring, and I was alone.”
In August 2021, Gary had two withdrawal related seizures. The second seizure happened while he was with SOS’s outreach staff. “Alcohol controlled my life. I knew if I didn’t make changes, I’d never see my children or mother again.” Gary said.
With help from SOS staff, Gary entered a 10-day detox at Saratoga Hospital, and then transferred to a 90-day rehab facility. After successfully completing rehab, Gary spent the next six months in our Emergency Shelter program on Walworth Street. While here, he established an independent living plan that included employment, household budgeting, and housing. He found employment at Wheatfield’s Restaurant and Bar, started paying his debts, and opened a savings account. Shelter staff provided support and tools to aid in Gary’s continued recovery.
In May 2022, a unit in our supportive housing became vacant. Gary received financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Solutions Grant, which paid his security deposit and first month of rent. For the first time in five years, Gary finally had a place to call home. Today, Gary receives ongoing support from Kaci, our housing case manager.
When we asked Gary to share his story of how your contributions helped change his life, he pointed to the living room ceiling with tears streaming down his face, and said “A safe place to call home keeps me sober.”
Will you help transform the lives of our neighbors facing homelessness with supportive services, safe shelter, and a path to independence? Make a gift today.
A safe place to call home keeps me sober.