Oliver was a long-time employee of UW Hospital and had his own trailer home and car. He lost his job after a bout of severe depression interfered with his ability to attend work regularly. He began spending a significant amount of time online and was targeted by a couple of individuals who befriended him in order to take advantage of him. He allowed them to move in with him and after some months passed, they convinced him to sign over the title of his trailer home, the contents of his retirement fund and his car title to them. They then dropped him off at Safe Haven, a homeless shelter for adults with a diagnosed mental illness. When Safe Haven staff discovered what had caused Oliver to become homeless, they assisted Oliver in contacting authorities.
After some action by the Dane County Sherriff’s department, one of the individuals agreed to sign the trailer home back over to Oliver. Unfortunately, Oliver’s car had been involved in a high-speed chase in another state and was totaled. Oliver needed significant support from A.B., the case manager of Safe Haven, as well as his psychiatrist and social worker from UW Health, to transition back to his housing, despite significant barriers. Oliver didn’t have any kind of income to pay the bills or a phone to communicate with his family, psychiatrist, or his case worker. His home was located in an area without access to public transportation.
Safe Haven staff referred him to ERI to help him apply for Social Security benefits. Safe Haven staff also helped him apply for energy assistance, a free government cell phone, and permanent case management. Safe Haven case manager A.B. visited Oliver weekly to make sure that he was doing well and to give him a ride to get groceries and go to appointments.Oliver and his family decided to sell his trailer home, as was unable to pay the lot rent without income and the location of the trailer was impractical because Oliver would be isolated and unable to access public transportation. Oliver’s family was able to help him sell the trailer and negotiate with the landlord to allow him to stay a few months longer until he could secure housing.
ERI was able to get Oliver rapidly connected with Social Security, and his psychiatrist ensured that he was able to be connected with a payee so that he would be protected from those who would seek to take advantage of him. Oliver then was able to move into Porchlight housing on Nakoosa Trail. Oliver came into Safe Haven the day he moved into housing, smiling from ear-to-ear. He thanked staff for helping him. Now he would like to apply for a part-time job with Porchlight so that he can help others.
Written by: A.B., Safe Haven Case Manager and Marjorie, Safe Haven Coordinator
I first met Lisa when she was homeless a few years back. She was bubbly, very outgoing, and a pleasure to engage with . After getting to know her on the brief instances I would see her, she was very forthcoming about her experiences with homelessness, poverty, being a victim of repeated sexual assault, and suffering from PTSD, as well as being in and out of prison throughout most of her life. However, Lisa didn’t dwell on her past mistakes, but only sought to get out of the life that she was brought into. Her mother was addicted to drugs and as far as she can remember, she did whatever she could to basically raise herself, including petty thievery to even prostitution. She also witnessed a great deal of things nobody should see, especially as a child. Eventually, she also became victimized. That’s when the sexual assaults started occurring; as early as 12. And throughout her adult life, she has been the target of much discrimination, mostly because Lisa is transgender. She says she accepts the punishment for the crimes she committed, but does not accept the way she was treated at various jails, prisons, and shelters. Although she always considered herself a female, she was housed with the male population, which eventually led to being victimized; both emotionally and physically, and not only by fellow inmates but staff as well. One deputy referred to her as a “hermaphrodite”.
Since my time at the shelter, I hadn’t seen Lisa in quite some time. A few months ago, Lisa’s case worker reached out to the DIGS program for some rental assistance. I met with Lisa at her apartment for a routine inspection and she quickly remembered me from the shelter, and for the next hour, I caught up with her. I was glad to see she had been in the same apartment for over a year, and she was working with Project RESPECT, as well as working for an advocacy agency to help other transgender not suffer the way she did. She talked with me about her experiences in the jail and prison system and how she was treated, but what I noticed most about her, was her upbeat and charismatic nature. Most people who have endured the type of trauma she has experienced, would not be so cheerful and jovial. Lisa was truly grateful to be alive and live to tell about it. Also, that day, I met her mother and was proud to see Lisa take such good care of her.
By: Betty Kuhlman, Counselor of DIGS program
Tina moved into her own apartment today with Porchlight. She was born and raised in Madison and has been living on the streets and in the shelters for the past 9 years. Tina has serious health issues and goes to dialysis 3 times a week. She said that moving into housing will save her life and is very grateful to Porchlight case manager Kelli for helping her find housing.
Doug is a veteran who lives in Porchlight housing. He participates in a program called Circle of Change that partners veterans with PTSD and mental health issues with dogs. Every week he gets to visit with his new friend.
Meet Jason. He is showing off his keys to his brand new apartment and his brand new work schedule for his second shift job at Wal-Mart, where just got hired. He also works consistently and diligently at the Concourse Hotel. Jason’s literacy level would be that around a seventh grader but his success can demonstrate how hard work, focused discipline, and persistence can pay off no matter what one’s circumstance and abilities. Congratulations on a job well done Jason!
By: Glenn Ruiz, Porchlight Outreach Worker
Meet Al and his wife Jennifer. He is showing of the keys to his brand new apartment located on Allied Drive. If you notice in front of him is his walker. This is because he has a severe seizure disorder, and could collapse from a grand mal seizure at any moment. Al in the past has been locked up in maximum security facilities due to multiple felony offenses, and has did time in secured mental health forensic units due to homicidal and suicidal tendencies. He has been chronically homeless for about a decade. Several months ago Al was assisted in obtaining SSI benefits after he had received a denial letter from social security. He also was one of the central figures who squatted at the City County Building porch for over a year. Now that Al has settled into his new home with his wife Jennifer and their kitty, Al expressed that he is dedicating his time to advocating for those suffering from homelessness in Madison via his blog and Facebook reports. Congratulations on your new home Al and Jennifer!
By: Glenn Ruiz, Porchlight Outreach Worker