Anthony’s life changed on July 15, 2013 when he received the keys to an apartment in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC. And while we celebrated that moment, we both knew that a hard road, possibly harder than the one we had just traveled, awaited us.
Recent numbers reported by David Berns of DC’s Department of Human Services show that 91% of people who were experiencing homelessness in the district and were rehoused remained in housing after one year. This gave me hope, but Anthony had been on and off the street for nearly 20 years. I was worried that he might be that one person out of ten that doesn’t make it.
My worrying though was for nothing. Anthony worked hard to stay housed and we celebrated his one year anniversary on July 14th at Rumors – a restaurant across the street from where he has sold the Street Sense newspaper for the past nine years. About 40 people – friends, supporters, employees of local businesses, etc – showed up to celebrate with him. He didn’t stop smiling all night.
Today, July 29th, is Anthony’s 57th birthday. My wish for him today is that he stays housed and celebrates many more birthdays. Happy birthday Anthony!
Last week Anthony and I got together to talk with a reporter from Street Sense. They’re doing a story on the one-year anniversary of Anthony being housed. Pretty cool.
I got to Anthony’s corner at 19th and M earlier than we had agreed that day. We often meet at the Au Bon Pain next door, so I walked over there to see if he had slipped inside to escape the blistering sun. My intuition was right.
Sporting a broad smile and walking slightly better than the last time I saw him, Anthony was in good spirits. We boarded the 42 bus toward Metro Center and got off at 13th and H.
Stepping off the bus I saw some deep purple clouds forming above. “Did you bring an umbrella,” I asked Anthony. He smiled and not missing a beat quipped back, “Nope. Just a towel and a bar of soap.” Now we were both smiling.
We sat down with Sophie from Street Sense for the interview. We talked about how we got connected and a bit about the challenges of finding Anthony housing. I learned something new in the interview. No it wasn’t a new recipe from Anthony’s cooking repertoire, it was that he had been thinking about trying to finish his education and get his GED. I think that would be great if he wants to do that. He’ll need to work on his reading and writing (and probably arithmetic as well) though.
I’m taking him to the doctor on Wednesday, so I’ll have an update later this week. For those of you in DC, please join us on Monday, July 14th at 5:30pm at Rumors to celebrate Anthony’s one-year anniversary of securing housing.
It was a little more than 18 months ago that Anthony and I were meeting at Au Bon Pain on 19th Street. It was one of our regular biweekly meetings that we have. I had asked him during the previous get-together to think about where he wanted to be in one year or five years. “Don’t answer me now,” I told him. “Think about it and we’ll talk about it when we meet next time.”
Two weeks went by. We sat down at our usual table; Anthony carefully accommodating the multiple bags of personal items that lugged around with him all day long. Before we had even taken the first bite of our lunch, Anthony said that he had been thinking about what we talked about the previous week.
It’s been months since I’ve updated Anthony & Me. I’m sorry, I’ve been busy…but Anthony and me still find time to meet up on a regular basis.
Anthony is doing well, despite a swollen knee that looks more like a watermelon. Helped by a cane, he hobbles downtown to his corner almost every morning though. Last Thursday he took the day off because it hurt too much to walk. I’m working on helping him get to a doctor but frankly I don’t think they will do much for this other than order bed rest.
Today we had a guest at our usual bi-weekly meeting: Elizabeth from Pathways to Housing. She’s the amazing young woman who helped Anthony find his current room. She joined us to help Anthony fill out applications for new housing – he hopes to get into an improved, more independent housing arrangement. We also learned that Elizabeth has taken a new job at Pathways and will no longer be doing outreach in the Golden Triangle but has moved over to Development.
I’ve been making progress, albeit slow, on the book. Anthony never lets me forget that I need to be writing and I truly appreciate it.
We’re about 45 days from the one year anniversary of Anthony finding housing. We’re planning a little celebration on Monday, July 14th – if you are in DC please join us. More details to come on this!
In my last post I shared a recipe from Anthony…I thought I would continue with that tradition and list another one here.
Ingredients: fish, butter, green peppers, onions, eggs, milk, cheese
“I take the original fish and debone it. Sometimes I buy fish sticks instead which I debread and use. Then I sauté the fish in butter with green peppers and onions. I take my eggs and beat’em up, and add just a pinch of milk to make them fluffy. Then I take a slice of cheese, split it in half, and spread it on half of the omelet. And after that is melted, you take the sautéed onions and fish and lay it on top. Then you take the half of the omelette you haven’t used yet and put it on top of everything else.”
I asked Anthony if he ate this like a sandwich. He said, “No. You just eat it as it is. I mean, if you want to eat it as a sandwich that is ok too.”
While the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes tend to gobble up most of our focus for the Thanksgiving holiday – it’s really about reflecting on what we are thankful for. It’s about family, community, giving and so much more. And there’s no pressure to buy anyone a gift or find a clever costume. Just family, friends, food and fellowship.
I wasn’t in DC for Thanksgiving so I didn’t get to have turkey with Anthony – but I did meet up with him today to see how his Thanksgiving was and get caught up on some other items. We decided to check out a new spot a block from Anthony’s “office” at 19th and M. “They’ve got fresh carved turkey sandwiches there – real sandwiches!” Anthony professed.
Capriotti’s was started in Delaware more than 30 years ago and is now approaching 100 shops around the country. We’re slated to get about a dozen here in the Greater DC area. The sandwiches are rolled in butcher’s paper and sealed with masking tape – like the place you used to get them when you were a kid. Yep, it’s got a little bit of that kind of feel.
I ordered a 9 inch turkey sub with hot peppers. Anthony, who is already a return customer since they opened 12 days ago, ordered the chicken cheese steak.
Half way through my sandwich, Anthony reaches out to stop a gentleman walking by. “Reed, this is the owner,” he whispers as he introduces me to George Vincent Jr. – a third generation Washingtonian who is leading the expansion here in the nation’s capital. I was so impressed with how busy the store was with less than two weeks under its belt that I had to know the secret. It’s rather simple according to George – he credits fresh ingredients and genuine customer service.
If the line that wraps nearly out the door isn’t enough of an indicator of the success to come to this DC newcomer, they might get a little help from Delaware’s number one son. “Joe Biden came in on our first day and got the Italian sub,” George told me.” He even took another back for the president!” Well, Anthony sure is in good company with his new favorite sandwich shop!
Anthony and I stuck around for a little while after we finished our lunch. I asked him if he had thought about any goals for 2014. “In fact I have,” he told me. He wants to focus on getting a second job and saving money to visit his sister Jackie in Seattle. “I also need to start thinking about a new apartment,” he said. His place is fine for now, don’t get me wrong, he’s extremely thankful to have housing, but he’d like to have a private bathroom and his own kitchen.
And speaking of the kitchen – I learned something new today. Anthony and I share a love of cooking! Check back on Thursday to find out about the fish fry that Anthony and his neighbors do every Saturday!
It seems like last week we skipped straight to winter – at least you would have thought that based on last Thursday here in DC. The high just made it over 50 degrees and the wind chill canceled out any relief the occasional sun provided. I’m glad that my friend Anthony has a warm, secure place to sleep indoors this winter. Thank you for your help in helping him achieve his goal.
I met Anthony over lunch. Joining us this time was another friend Steve who lives two blocks from Anthony’s apartment. They’ve met a couple of times and I thought I’d extend an invitation to him to join us.
It’s been two weeks since I have seen Anthony – that’s probably the longest I have gone this year without seeing him. He said he wanted to go to the Street Sense 10th Anniversary Gala event which was October 10th, but that he wasn’t one of the handful of vendors who were invited to be part of the event. I offered to pay the $150 for him to go and he seemed very happy.
I visited Anthony on October 9th – just a normal check-in. He was in good spirits. Several people stopped by to say hello to him. One of them, a young lady with a foreign accent that I couldn’t quite place Continue reading →
It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on Anthony and me. Anthony is doing great. He’s so happy to have his very own living space. Thank you to all of you who helped him in some way. From the financial donations to the care-packages to this amazing quilt that Joyce from Texas made especially for Anthony! It’s beautiful! He has it spread over his bed and uses it to cover up at night if he gets cool while watching tv.
Right now we are working on two new things for Anthony. First, we are looking for an adult literacy class for him to join. As a result of dropping out of Continue reading →
Eight months ago Anthony and I embarked on a journey. Anthony was to help me stay on track writing my book about the Year of Giving and I agreed to help Anthony try to get off the streets and into his very own apartment. While we have a long way to go on my book, Anthony is now living in his very own apartment.
I went with Anthony to sign his lease and pick up his keys to his apartment. Catholic Charities, a national organization that helps individuals living in poverty, has a program that helps individuals like Anthony get back into housing. Anthony and I learned about their program and the available apartment through Pathways to Housing, a terrific regional organization that helps find housing for individuals with mental illness, co-occurring substance abuse disorders and/or other medical challenges. We’ve been working with their rock-star outreach worker Elizabeth for several months now.
I’m not celebrating just yet, but we got some amazing news this week. Through a lot of hard work from Elizabeth, the outreach worker that we have been working with, it looks like Anthony will receive his very own set of keys to his apartment next Monday!!!
Sadly I am not in the US to celebrate with him…I am in Bolivia on a business trip. I called him yesterday via and he was so excited and thankful for the hard work, kindness and support so many have offered to him.
He went on Monday to check out the apartment. “It’s got a really nice bed,” he told me. Thoughts of him no longer sleeping on the damp unforgiving pavement made my voice smile back at him.
I have to admit though – I am a bit worried about this transition. This will be a tremendous change for Anthony. I need to find out if they have services available to help homeless individuals deal with moving back indoors. I am certainly not the best option to give him support in that area.
Anyway…I will have more news at the latest by early next week! I hope that I will be able to go with him and watch him receive his keys.