Sebastian, a senior living homeless in San Diego, was tired of being hungry and frightened on the streets. Here’s how he changed his life with help from Father Joe’s Villages.
15 years. That’s how long Sebastian lived on the streets before getting the help he needed at Father Joe’s Villages.
Sebastian, age 66, struggled with addiction for decades, alienating his friends and family along the way.
Before homelessness, Sebastian had a well-paying job as a truck driver in Los Angeles. However, as he fell deeper into his addiction, he gave up his apartment to use that money on narcotics. Despite the drug-use, Sebastian was able to hold on to his job and even came to San Diego for an even higher-paying job.
However, he continued living on the streets to feed his addiction. Over the next couple of years, he managed to survive but was often hungry, alone and anxious.
“It was hard trying to find shelter and something to eat. I’d wait in line at churches and by the time I’d get there the food would be out.”
Eventually Sebastian stopped working and lost his income. Every day, he continued to struggle to find food and a safe place to sleep on the streets.
The Turning Point
At 65 years old, Sebastian finally had had enough. “I didn’t want to live in fear anymore,” Sebastian said.
He was admitted to an inpatient drug treatment program and reemerged sober—ready to start again.
He was referred to Father Joe’s Villages’ Rapid Rehousing program where clients are provided short-term rental assistance and support from a Case Manager. “They cared for me. No one else had cared for me,” Sebastian said.
As a Marine Corps Veteran, his Case Manager was also able to help Sebastian obtain benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
Despite the struggle many seniors have finding affordable housing, Father Joe’s Villages helped Sebastian find an apartment that worked for him.
However, he’s one of the lucky ones.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, “There are at least nine seniors waiting for every one occupied unit of affordable elderly housing nation-wide. Furthermore, the waiting list for affordable senior housing is often three to five years.”
Father Joe’s Villages’ Case Managers and Housing Specialists work to form special relationships with landlords and property managers in order to overcome this difficulty.
Even if there is available affordable housing, the average Social Security payment barely covers the cost of rent in San Diego and often leaves individuals with an income well below the poverty line. Many people over 60 struggle to cover utilities, transportation and health care expenses. Sadly, more and more are ending up on the streets.
In fact, 20% of the adults we serve in our emergency shelter and 30% supported in permanent housing by our Tenant Services team are aged 60 and older. 35% of respondents to a survey of homelessness conducted by San Diego’s Annual Point in Time Count reported being over the age of 55. 50 of these individuals were even over the age of 75.
Today, because of our incredible donors, Sebastian not only has a place to live, but a true home of his own and peace after years of fear and desperation living on the streets.
A Brighter Future
His case manager continues to work with him to ensure that he keeps his housing for years to come.
“Looking out for the people; watching them; being broke— Father Joe’s helped me with my change in life. Without them I’d probably be on the streets or dead.”
Sebastian is now working on rebuilding relationships with his family and giving back to help people experiencing homelessness. His children are happy to have the opportunity to reconnect with their father. They even visited him in his new home and held a barbecue for him.
“For the first time, my brother said, ‘I’m proud of you for what you accomplished.’ If it weren’t for Father Joe’s Villages, I wouldn’t have my family. That’s very important for homeless people because they lose that relationship and no one cares for them.”
“Without you, we’d be nothing. With the community’s donations – whatever they can give – Father Joe’s is helping abused families, helping people get employment, clothing, food and a place to stay. I want to thank everyone for showing us that they care.”