As Corey sits down to tell his story alongside his Case Manager, Danny, he beams as he describes all of the things that have turned around for him in the last 6 months. Discussing his journey toward stability, including finding housing for the first time in his life, earning his forklift certification, and maintaining his sobriety, he expresses a great deal of gratitude for the role that Inspiration Corporation and our supporters have had in his success.
Corey is part of the Basic Outreach and Engagement Program, a new initiative funded by the City of Chicago, designed to connect homeless people in the uptown area with a wide range of services, including housing. The program is open to individuals who meet the HUD definition of homelessness, including people staying in shelters, or living in places not meant for human habitation. Having spent many nights in vacant buildings as a teen and young adult, he’s no stranger to this scenario. As an only child with little supervision, he turned to gangs and selling drugs, resulting in multiple bouts of incarceration, and struggles with alcohol abuse, depression, and chronic homelessness.
Already scarred as a youth by the loss of his mother to alcohol abuse, the death of Corey’s grandmother was what seemed to be the turning point that led to many of his struggles. “My grandma was my best friend,” He says. “I used to go to church like 4 times out of the week, with my grandma. [She’s] the one that raised me up. I was already mad and then my grandma started getting sick with alzheimer’s, and my uncle wouldn’t take care of the bills. My grandma was forced to go live in a nursing home. I was mad because of that.” Tension continued between Corey and his relatives, and he was kicked out of his aunt’s house, and eventually arrested for drug possession at age 17.
After years in and out of jail and on the streets, Corey had decided that he’d had enough. While he had a long list of goals he wanted to complete he knew that none of them would be possible until he worked on his sobriety and addressed his depression. After his cousin, another participant at Inspiration Corporation, invited him as a guest to one of our meals, Corey decided to meet with Danny and enroll in our program.
While he didn’t immediately have high hopes for the future, Corey says his instant connection with Danny gave him a sense of optimism and motivation. “He was like a social worker but he became my friend,” He says. When I was down and out, he picked me back up.” He and Danny agree that even though the end goal of this program is housing, the support that happens in the meantime makes a huge difference. “There are all of these systemic things that people are dealing with, and are really difficult to do if you don’t have an advocate in your corner, assisting with those basic things,” Says Danny, “And that’s what I think our role is.” Those things can range from case management to financial assistance for various needs such as transportation, work clothes, and documentation fees.
While Corey expresses a great deal of gratitude for the services he’s received, Danny is quick to remind him of his own role in his success. “You’re lost in the woods and it’s dark and you don’t know where you’re going, and you run into me and I give you a flashlight, and it’s a little bit easier to get out of the woods, but you still gotta do it on your own,” Says Danny.
“Well, thank you for the flashlight,” Corey laughs.
As Corey continues to complete his goals, he reminds himself how easy it would be for things to go back to the way they once were. “A lot of times I wanted to not do it, but I couldn’t give up. If I gave up, I’d be homeless. I’d be on the streets. I’d probably be eating out of the garbage again.” These fears aside, his vision for the future helps motivate him to keep working hard and to maintain his sobriety, a vision that includes one day having children and making enough to pay rent without assistance. Corey remains grateful that our supporters have helped him get this far. As he puts it, “This program makes people feel there’s hope out there.”