I don’t know where to start, so i guess I’ll start at the beginning. I’ve spent the better part of the last twenty years struggling with mental illness. Just being able to function on a daily basis became a chore. In 1995 I simply walked away from my job and walked out on my wife and two young children, and thus began a vicious cycle of mental instability and several episodes of homelessness. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I mean, here I was, this fairly intelligent college-educated man whose whole life was systematically falling apart. I struggled to maintain housing or employment. I managed to get good jobs but would just walk away from them. I worked as a supervisor at Newark airport. One day i closed up the business and never came back. I worked for Newark public schools. I dismissed the class one day and never came back. I would walk away from housing to live in the streets eating out of garbage cans because in my mind this is where i belonged. I always felt alone and unwanted. It was like being in a dark room with no windows or doors.
It wasn’t until 2003 that i was first diagnosed as suffering from bipolar mania with psychosis. I began outpatient treatment but was unable to sustain any level of compliance due to living in the streets. I tried staying with family and friends. Things would eventually fall apart as it was hard for others to understand my illness. The thoughts running through my mind had me convinced that the only safe place for me away from criticisms and hurt feelings was the streets. The toughest part of being homeless was trying to maintain employment.
My mental health continued to deteriorate, until in 2006 I attempted to take my life. I felt that if I can’t live “normally” then I didn’t want to live at all. I was hospitalized and then discharged into another living situation that didn’t work out. It was after I was hospitalized for the third time within that same year that I was able to get into a mental health-housing program thru East Orange General Hospital. There I was able to gain some sense of control over my life. Upon completion of the program I was urged to seek a job where I can help others who were going thru the same experiences that I had gone through.
I came to Project Live in 2007 as a part-time outreach worker for PATH program. Here i was able to reach my full potential as an individual and worker. Staff was very supportive and caring. Being part of the Project Live family is an experience I will always see as a life changer for me. I regained my confidence and continued to grow. To make a long story short, through Project Live I was able to share my experiences with members of Congress in Washington, D.C. as well as meet with Senators Menendez and Lautenberg to lobby for more funding for programs that help the homeless and mentally ill. I was appointed by then-governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine, to be on his state commission to end homelessness.
I am now a consumer with Supportive Housing. My counselor has been great. She sees me on a weekly basis and is sincere in addressing needs and concerns and helping me establish and reach my goals. This has enabled me to maintain a high level of consistency with treatment. My housing is stabilized thru Project Live. I have a wonderful relationship with my children and life is worth living again. I could write a book on my experiences but I choose to speak about my time with Project Live because it has made such a big difference in my life. I am working full time now with the outreach team. I am now also a SOAR trainer, meaning I train staff from other agencies how to complete the social security application process for their consumers. All this was made possible thru the understanding and guidance of staff and administrators here at Project Live.