Patrick’s Story of Homelessness

It was a normal day for Patrick’s family.  He was busy making dinner for his wife and family.  He heard a thump and went upstairs to make sure everything was ok.  It was not.  Iris, his wife of 7 years, was on the floor and Patrick started CPR.  The ambulance arrived, but Iris was gone.

Coming to grips with the loss was unbearable for Patrick.  Trying to support his family on just one income was something he never expected.  It proved to be too difficult to do on his own.

Although his relationship with his mother was strained, he contacted her for help.  He and his children went to Connecticut to try to get some stability and normalcy as they worked through their grief.  While she allowed them to live in the house for a brief period of time, she eventually forced him and his children out of her house.  Homeless with three kids in tow, he had no place to go.

He decided to take the train from Connecticut to New York City in hopes of eventually getting a bus back to Reading.  He didn’t have enough money for train tickets for his family. This homeless family stayed at the train station as he tried to figure out a plan to get them home.

At the train station, he dozed off and his daughter woke him up.  “There was a barrel of a gun in my face,” he noted.  Police with guns surrounded him.  A police dog was at his neck.  He was terrified.  His daughter innocently said, “That’s my Dad, let him go.”  That’s when the police realized he was the father of his children and not a kidnapper that had been in the area.  The police retreated but the scars from that day still linger in Patrick’s mind.

Later, a stranger approached him and gave him money.  She said, “Go home and have a Merry Christmas.”  It was enough money for Patrick to purchase train tickets, bus tickets and get food for his hungry children.  They boarded the train to New York City and eventually took a bus back to Reading, Pennsylvania.

Facing Homelessness Again

Returning back to Reading didn’t make life easier.  He attempted bring his family to Opportunity House but there was no space available for the entire family.   A friend of his wife’s offered to keep the children for a short period of time.  With no place to live, no job and struggling to deal with the loss of his wife, Patrick was faced with unthinkable choices.  “I wanted my children to have a great life.  I knew I couldn’t give that to them,” he said.  Patrick contact Children and Youth Services to find foster homes for his children.  “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I wanted them to have a better life than I could give them.  They deserved that,” he said. Eventually his children were adopted by other families.

Patrick began to rebuild his life in small steps.  He took odd jobs to begin to earning money.  He came to Opportunity House.  At Opportunity House, this former cook, took on the responsibility of washing dishes, cleaning grills and keeping the kitchen clean after each meal.  He began to feel motivated and more connected to others.  “I feel better when I am around other people,” he added.  Patrick now lives in Opportunity House permanent housing and serves as a senior resident at Opportunity House.  In this role as senior resident, Patrick stays connected to others and serves as a mentor to others at Opportunity House.

Today, Patrick is working on finding peace in his life.  He sees his daughter and shares a meal with her periodically.  “I see families and I think that should be me,” he added.  Making peace is an ongoing process.  For Patrick it involves mediation, listening to relaxing music, walking and being mindful of his thoughts. He’s set a goal for himself including possibly returning to school.  “Life is going to get better for me,” he said.

© Opportunity House 2022

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