"I was the smart kid that always seemed to end up learning the hard way. Grades came easy to me and I floated through life at an easy pace. In my teen years, I began to deal with depression and addiction issues which have plagued me for the rest of my life. Then things went from bad to worse; I dropped out of high school and got deeper into drugs. In my early twenties, I had a tragic mountain bike accident that left me with epilepsy and ever worsening mental health issues. I began to have trouble holding a job, keeping a relationship and, after 20 years, I lost the one thing I took for granted - my housing. For two years, I lived on the streets and was caught in a revolving door of drug use, depression, and hospitalization.
There's a men's shelter called Cornerstone Community Association Durham, where I had stayed from time to time. They would help me search for housing and set me up with my other community supports. One day, after living in an abandoned house for over three months, I checked back into Cornerstone. I felt desperate and alone. This is when I became a part of the Housing First Program. I was connected with a transitional room at Cornersone and an outreach worker assisted me in daily living. They gave me all of the support I needed to break the cycle of homelessness, addiction, and mental health hospitalization.
"I've come to truly understand that it's not about how far you fall or where you land, it's about how you get up that defines you."
That was over one year ago, and now I have stable housing and a support worker to help me make healthy decisions, while still giving me the chance to decide for myself how to stay on the right track. I now have the tools to handle my addiction and depression in a proactive and healthy fashion. I've come to truly understand that it's not how far you fall or where you land, it's about how you get up that defines you. With a helping hand, I am slowly but surely getting stronger everyday thanks to Cornerstone - a United Way funded agency."
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"In July of 2017, I started working with Darcy when he was a volunteer participant of the Housing First Program through the Outreach Program at Cornerstone. When Darcy started the program, he identified that he was struggling with addiction and mental health concerns. He had been living on the streets for nearly two years, and it was evident that he was determined to move forward and overcome these challenges.
"Not once did I see Darcy give up or have a negative outlook on his current situation".
Darcy met with me on a regular basis to look for housing and work towards daily goals. Not once did I see Darcy give up or have a negative outlook on his current situation. A transitional room became available at Cornerstone and Darcy did not hesitate to apply. He was accepted into the transitional room and we continued to work towards obtaining identification and reaching out to other community agencies to address Darcy's identified goals. The program was able to assist and support Darcy during his move by purchasing items he needed for his new home, with an emphasis on personal choice, to ensure his new housing felt like a home.
When Darcy moved in, he was also suffering from frequent seizures. After moving into his new housing, he hasn't had a seizure in over two months - this is the longest he has ever gone without having an episode. He is now also an active member of the Cornerstone Outreach community; attending events such as beach days, fishing trips, and many more.
At this point, Darcy has been stably housed for over a year and has achieved all of his identified goals. He recently graduated from the Housing First Program which has been a huge accomplishment and one that both myself and Darcy are very proud of. Darcy remains highly motivated and confident in everything he does. He now helps other individuals who are homeless by providing them with their basic needs. Every day I see Darcy, he has something in his hands and his response to me is: "this is for my friend; they're living on the streets and I am trying to help them". Darcy's kindness and dedication to himself is something he will carry no matter where he goes."
Help support Hayley and her work at Cornerstone Community Association Durham, a United Way agency.