Ending HomelessnessHousingPartnersSuccess Stories

“Homelessness Can Be Your Next Door Neighbor”

Starting a new job following Hurricane Harvey last year seemed to be promising; a chance to get back on the right track. Mr. Butler would have never guessed just two days after starting his new job, he would suffer a broken ankle that would lead to being in and out of the hospital for two months, due to high-risk of infection and unavoidable illness. As others began to get ready for the holiday season, Mr. Butler was preparing to live out of his car once again.

Originally from Chicago, Mr. Butler moved to the Houston area from Mississippi over 35 years ago after his military service. Though there had been times where he had stayed with family friends or at the hospital (due to multiple chronic illnesses), Mr. Butler typically slept in his car and it had been four years since he had a place of his own. His nights were mostly spent worrying about who may reach in and grab his medication bag as he slept with his car windows down, because of the brutal heat that comes with Texas summers.

Mr. Butler utilized day shelter services at 1960 Hope Center when he could, eating lunch there a couple days a week and taking a shower if he was able to get there early enough. It wasn’t until his future case manager, Fernando Torres from Avenue 360, found him while he was on a street corner one day, that Mr. Butler’s luck began to turn around.

“Mr. Torres and Avenue360 were really the key things that got me into a home again,” said Mr. Butler. “After breaking my ankle, getting sick, and not being able to get the proper paperwork in order, it looked like I was going to be on the streets for a while.”

Mr. Butler said he had a mission to be in a place of his own again, never giving up hope that his time would come. Mr. Butler began working with Avenue360 in May and was able to sign his lease at the beginning of August. When it was finally time to move-in, he admits to being apprehensive.

“I honestly thought I was going to be a prisoner in there,” said Mr. Butler. “I became accustomed to living on streets. It hasn’t been like that at all though, everyone has been really nice and I met a new friend just the other day. I think I’m going to like it here.”

Mr. Butler talks about his on-going struggles with pain management due to nerve damage and arthritis. He hopes to be able to get into a normal routine soon, but as for right now he’s enjoying being able to sit down and relax without fear for the first time in years.

When asked what he would want others to know about those experiencing homelessness he immediately thought of the address he has had on his driver’s license for the past 35 years. “Homelessness isn’t just the unfamiliar faces you see on the street corners,” Mr. Butler said. “Homelessness can be your next-door neighbor. I have a son who has a Master’s degree and an ex-wife who is the vice president at a prominent company, it really can happen to anyone.”