Meet People Whose Lives have been Changed with the Help of Supportive Housing
Nana Posey’s face lights up as she talks about her 26 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “I love my grandkids, and they love me like nobody’s business,” she shares. “They’re all doing well, and they give me such a lift when they call.”
What they don’t know is that their Nana is homeless.
“They would help me if I asked,” she said, “but I don’t want to be a bother to them. They’re young, and they have their own growing families to care for.”
At the age of 72, Carolyn – whom everyone calls Nana – is among the increasing number of seniors who are homeless.
“We’re seeing vast new numbers of clients,” said Ted Pascoe, CEO of Senior Support Services. Last year, the downtown Denver-based nonprofit provided 2,200 seniors (ages 55 and older) with tailored support services including meals, clothing, health care, transportation, keeping or finding housing, paying utilities, and more. Pascoe largely attributes this influx of homeless seniors to the increasing aging population – the so-called Silver Tsunami – and to skyrocketing housing costs.
“Landlords used to call us to offer vacancies,” he said. “They wanted to help. But that doesn’t happen anymore; the waiting lists are long.”
The wait proved too long for Nana. Her money ran out while she was staying in a hotel looking for a place to rent in Denver. “I put everything in storage in Greeley and moved to Denver to be near my granddaughter,” she said. “But by April I was at the bottom of my hope; I had run out of money and food.”
“On Mother’s Day, of all days, I came to Senior Support Services. They helped me get food stamps, do a job search, a housing search… they have helped me with everything,” Nana said. “Everyone treated me so kindly, and at that point I really needed kindness. It kept me from dwelling on the negativity.”
Like many older adults, Nana’s circumstances are compounded by health challenges. Six years ago, she had heart surgery, followed by two strokes. She also has PTSD, she says, because of having lost four of her five children, the last one in a car accident at the age of 15.
“Sometimes it feels overwhelming,” said Nana, “but there is always hope, especially when someone reaches out and offers a hand.”
The day before sharing her story, Nana got the news she was hoping and praying for: a home. “I signed final papers yesterday and will move in next week,” she beamed. “A home for Christmas!”
When asked about her hopes for the future, Nana said after she settles in she’ll resume her volunteer work at one or more of the three shelters she stayed in. “This morning I made 180 sandwiches. Tomorrow I need to make 280 sandwiches. Giving back makes me feel better about myself. I just want to contribute.”
Learn more about Senior Support Services, and elder homelessness, and take the CLOSE TO HOME pledge to say you believe we can become a community where everyone has a safe place to call home. The simple act of raising your voice sends a powerful message to policy, business and community leaders that we – their constituents, customers and neighbors – expect them to join us in making a meaningful difference in addressing homelessness.
Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall says it was a trying time for his family. “My mom was going through a lot of abuse from my father. We went to a shelter because we were afraid he would find us. We had to protect ourselves, and my mom had to protect us. That’s why we went to a shelter and it definitely helped us out.” View Brandon’s story, which he generously shared with CLOSE TO HOME for the CLOSE TO HOME campaign launch.
An addiction for 20 years, a survivor of childhood abuse and domestic violence as an adult, a family of addicts, and homeless for most of her adult life, the odds of survival for Brenda were slim. Today, Brenda is not just surviving, she is thriving. Thanks to her own will to be a better mother and to be stable, Brenda is living a fulfilled life.
Brenda was a victim of many forms of abuse by a close family member as a child. As a way to cope with the trauma, she started to use cocaine regularly at 19. During the early years of her use, Brenda married and had two children. Her husband was very abusive, and Brenda knew she and her children were better off without a home, than to stay. At 28, Brenda entered a domestic violence shelter with her then 4-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. Without therapy intervention for the abuse Brenda faced, she sank deeper into her addiction – graduating from cocaine to crack, losing custody of her children, and landing in prison twice for two separate felonies.
At 42, Brenda had enough of living on the streets, staying in unsafe shelters and prostituting for motel money. “I was struggling with addiction really bad. [As an addict] you’re always wanting someone to show you how to change your life and get away from the drug.” In March of 2010, Brenda sought help from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. With the help of a case manager, Brenda was added to the waitlist for housing. During her eight-month wait, Brenda got clean on her own and attended every group meeting offered by the Coalition. She sought the help from a behavioral therapist, and was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder. In October of the same year, Brenda got the call – it was time to move into her new apartment.
Today, Brenda is sober and living in her own apartment with her three beloved chihuahuas. She has also worked to regain a relationship with her two adult children.
“I want to be healthy. I want to be able to walk down the street and hold my head high, and have people look at me and say ‘wow, she’s beautiful,’ not ‘ugh you look like you’re drugged out.’”Brenda still attends the group meetings the Coalition offers weekly. She says being a part of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Group, the Trauma Group, the Peer Group, and the Wonder Woman Group have all helped her maintain her sobriety and mental health.
“I’m just so thankful for this program, with all the love and care they have given me, the understanding and non-judgmental attitude, it really helps. The confidentiality, being able to open up and knowing it won’t leave the room, helped me to let a lot of things out that I was holding inside.”
The odds were stacked against Brenda, but she was determined to live a full and happy life. With a constant smile, Brenda is living the life she always deserved through hard work and a collaboration with the Coalition.
After parting from an abusive relationship, April was left jobless and homeless with a six month old son. Through hard work and sacrifice she was able to focus on pursuing a higher education and providing for her son. The message that she hopes people will take away from her story is that, “no matter where you come from, you can turn your life around.”