“I never imagined I would experience homelessness, but I wasn’t about to give up. There’s still so much more for me to do.”
James has always been a hands-on, hardworking man. He spent years in the flooring industry and dedicated decades to developing and sharing his experiences in the trades. When local teenagers would stop by and ask questions about his small business, James was always ready to share a slice of wisdom.
“I loved working in flooring,” said James. “And I would always encourage the kids to learn a trade. You earn self-respect, gain self-worth, and are of service to others. It’s something you can carry with you for the rest of your life.”
Despite his business’s success, in 2020 something happened that James never expected. The COVID-19 pandemic struck, and everything changed.
“Who knew a virus would wipe through the world?” said James. “I never expected business to decline, but I couldn’t see into the future.”
Like so many other independent workers, James lost his business during the pandemic, and without a steady income, he faced increasing housing insecurity. Before long he was forced to leave his home of over 40 years.
“When it all hits at once, you just keep asking yourself ‘What am I going to do?’ I just needed shelter. I just needed to get out of the elements. But finding a new place to live seemed impossible. No one will hire you without an address,” said James.
For nearly three years the question of how to find safe and stable housing loomed over James’ head. He took refuge wherever he could find it – in emergency shelters, in his car, and even once in a skate park – but these were all temporary solutions. To make matters worse, he began to experience a number of medical issues. The physical demands of a lifetime of skilled labor had caught up to James. He was limited by two blown-out knees, and in need of a bilateral hip replacement. With severely restricted mobility and limited access to healthcare, James’ health suffered greatly while experiencing homelessness.
“No one knew where I was, and it was extremely difficult to communicate with my family or my doctors. In my condition, I felt like a sitting duck on the streets,” said James. “I was vulnerable, and it was dangerous. I needed a safe home if I was ever going to really get back on my feet.”
In December of 2022, James finally caught the break he needed when Step Up opened a new permanent supportive housing development in his community. Just after the start of the new year and three years after first experiencing homelessness, James officially became a Step Up member and one of the new development’s first residents.
“I felt settled the first time I walked in,” said James. “I remember thinking, ‘This is what true help is.’ Step Up gave me a home and an address. They gave me hope.”
Moving into Step Up’s permanent supportive housing development was transformative for James. With his own kitchen came the ability to cook healthy meals, and within six months he lost over 50 pounds, edging him closer to becoming eligible for his knee and hip replacements. He was also able to rebuild his relationship with his daughter, who now visits frequently and no longer has to worry about the safety of her father. He loves to use the stationary bike she gifted him to continue improving his physical health.
“Being positive, that’s what keeps me going. I’m ready to get back the things I love, and this place shows you that they care about helping you get there. They continue to help me get to my doctors’ appointments, which allowed me to start getting my health in order.”
Approaching his 60th birthday, James looks forward to his golden years and his future at his new home with Step Up.
“I have so many ideas for this place! The staff here have already started developing an activities schedule and I would love for us to start a garden,” said James. “I’m excited to see where we’ll be in a year.”
With the support of Step Up, James actively works on rebuilding his life and continues to be an active part of his new and growing community.
“We all need more positivity, and we need to help give people a sense of belonging,” said James. “I’m so grateful that Step Up gave me the housing and support I needed to get back on my feet.”
To learn more about how you can help break the cycle of homelessness for people like James, visit www.stepup.org/donate