In September of 2019, after couch surfing for a while, George started sleeping on the streets. After many years as a welder, George suffered from severe hearing loss, eventually losing hearing in both ears and leading him to needing a cochlear implant. However, during a storm and some flooding, while George was sleeping outside, the cochlear implant was lost. Now George relies solely on reading lips.
While living on the streets, George would attend breakfast at Amos House each morning. That is where George would come to hear about Shower to Empower and come across a flyer for the unit. George began attending Shower to Empower twice a week for showers.
Although George would be out there twice a week, he would have very little conversation with any of the staff and would NEVER ask for help; just wanted a shower and was on his way. Slowly, George started conversing with the team at Shower to Empower and they worked to gain George’s trust in order to begin helping him gain access to the services he needed.
Then in Spring of 2020, COVID hit and Shower to Empower halted operations in order to keep staff and clients safe. During this time, however, the team lost touch with George.
A few months went by and in the Summer of 2020 the team was conducting outreach at an encampment in Pawtucket. There sitting by the river was George. “We were reunited with George yet he still wouldn’t ask for help.” Explained Shaina, a street outreach case manager “But we kept showing up.”
The team worked hard to continue building trust with George when finally, he asked for help. When the pandemic began many resources were only available by phone; drop-in centers were closed down. This presented a huge challenge for George due to his hearing impairment. George needed help with the phone calls and Shaina stepped up not only becoming his case manager but so much more.
“Shaina became my ears and more importantly my voice.” George would go on to say
Together they would work together to get George a new bus pass and the vital documents he would need to get into housing. Shaina worked in collaboration with the team at Amos House to figure out what benefits George could apply for and soon he was receiving his Social Security Disability Income benefits.
“George’s tent at the encampment had a sign hanging above it that simply read “WE NEED A MIRACLE”. He was expressing what we all know is true.” Shaina shared. The winter was upon us and the City of Pawtucket was getting ready to clear the land that the encampment was on – an encampment that George and 30 other individuals were currently calling home.
However, soon after George started receiving his benefits, he received a Housing voucher. This should have been a great thing but there were no available apartments. Something that our team is all too familiar within Rhode Island; the lack of affordable housing is a true crisis in our state.
Shaina wouldn’t give up and together, her and George kept searching for an apartment. During this time, Shaina worked hard to in order to get George access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Finally, after overcoming so much and countless nights on the streets, in July 2021, George signed a lease to a new apartment. George would no longer experience a life on the streets, he now had a safe and dignified place to call home; he found his “miracle’.
If George had never started coming out to Shower to Empower, who knows where he would be today. Shower to Empower is so much more than just showers. It’s a place where people come for help; where people come to restore their hope and find their small “miracle.”