John Grundowski, age 54, is a lifelong resident of Berks County. At the age of 9, Grundowski and his eight siblings lost their mother to cancer, and he and his youngest brother spent the rest of their childhood in foster homes and child care. Grundowski attended both Central Catholic and Muhlenberg school districts. Although he has been a hard worker since the age of 16, work simply is not always there. Grundowski was laid off last November from a plastic company in Hamburg that he had worked at for two years. “They gave me a raise a month before they laid me off,” recalls Grundowski, laughing at the irony of it all. Soon thereafter, the money began to run out. Although Grundowski knew what to expect, as he had been homeless before, this time around was different. His brother recommended he turn to Opportunity House for help.
Despite Grundowski’s current circumstances, he is very optimistic, hopeful and determined. “It’s easy to get
pessimistic about the future, but you can replace negative habits with positive habits and activities. Wherever a person comes from off the street, there is always some past activities that they would want to change. You can always critique how you can improve upon your situation,” he says. Prior to becoming homeless, Grundowski was using resources such as CareerLink in hopes of finding work. “It’s not like I wasn’t taking advantage of the concrete networking to enable myself to step into work again as soon as possible,” he explains. Grundowski is currently working to “get in order” so he can offer an employer his “full able-bodied self,” and Opportunity House is assisting him in reaching this goal. All clients receiving help from the shelter must meet with case managers, come up with a self-sufficiency contract that they will follow in order to leave the shelter, attend a daily life skills class and complete two hours of daily community service.
Grundowski reflects on his experience at Opportunity House thus far: “I think most of the staff have actually made an impact on me, if not all the staff…Their can-do bright and positive attitude is contagious. The classes and the community service keeps you focused, and it also keeps you constructively moving forward.” When asked if he enjoys participating in the programs that are offered at the shelter, he replies with a smile on his face. “Yeah, I mean everybody does. For some people it might be a chore at first, but I think they all enjoy it because once they interact, they are not only bonding with each other in those circumstances, but they are learning something. Learning something every day – that’s what life is about.”
Aside from the daily tasks that John Grundowski and other clients at the shelter must take part in, they also enjoy
playing games, such as football and basketball, and taking long walks. Grundowski enjoys strolling down to the Reading Public Library to find new books to read. He also keeps up with current events. As a veteran who served in the Navy during peacetime from 1978 to 1979, he pays particularly close attention to news regarding veterans across the country. Sadly, John Grundowksi is not the only homeless veteran. According to The Department of Housing and Urban Development, over 47,700 veterans are homeless. However, a recently released report shows that veteran homelessness has decreased 35.6 percent since 2010. When asked what he plans to do once he leaves Opportunity House, John Grundowski instantaneously replies, “productively work.” He continues, “Loving what you do is a key, too. Being a service is one thing, but loving what you do is a key to interior happiness.”