License to Thrive: David's Story
"I had never had a job. I had never had my place with keys to my door…"
For many, holding a driver’s license or key to a door represents security and freedom. For David R., these simple items mean everything.
David spent many years homeless, first as a young child with his father, and then on his own in his 20s. His mother was arrested for manufacturing methamphetamine when David was just six years old. His father, who he considers his hero, took over David’s care but lost his job and couldn’t provide a home.
This instability set David up for serious difficulties in school; he dropped out in eighth grade. As he moved into adulthood, he never felt safe. He experienced escalating criminal charges and serious violence from a knife fight that left him paralyzed for a time. His recovery from that injury was compounded by his untreated addiction and homelessness. “I lost everything around me,” he explains.
David was incarcerated when he finally sought treatment. He completed a 90-day inpatient program that included mandatory 12 step meetings. Then, CCC’s Housing Rapid Response program gave him a room at the Estate, an alcohol- and drug-free supportive housing building. “It wasn’t the biggest room, but it was MY room,” he says.
It took some time for David to get used in living in housing, but it filled him with a sense of responsibility for his own life. “I had never had a job,” he explains. “I had never had my place with keys to any door… those are vital for me.”
Getting a driver’s license and a car, which is something that connects him to his dad, have been important milestones along the way.
David’s life experience allows him to relate to others who have survived extremely challenging circumstances.
In his own recovery and his work with CCC as a housing support specialist, David sees one common thread to recovery: the goal of self-sufficiency. But getting there can come in many different ways. “I love talking about harm reduction and Housing First,” he says, referring to models of care that emphasize meeting and helping a person where they are. “You never know what success is going to look like to somebody.”
Being open to each individual’s path and connecting on an individual level is at the core of how he sees his job. “I just like to share me, and then they share them. And whatever success looks like, to me that’s recovery.”
CCC offers housing choice, where residents can choose Housing First to get into housing immediately, or move into alcohol- and drug-free recovery housing to help support a new, healthy lifestyle. This choice is the first step for many taking responsibility for their future.
David’s life experience allows him to relate to others who have survived extremely challenging circumstances. “I know what it’s like to be homeless in my youth, and in my teenage years, and in my twenties. I know what it’s like to not even know how to walk, to be literally disabled. So those experiences are gold when I meet somebody and let them know what housing can do for them. How will you even know about that unless you’ve actually lived it?”
The most difficult part of his work, he says, is fighting to undo cycles of co-dependency or domestic violence that can be interrupted temporarily but often return. He knows from his own experience, however, that safe housing is the basic foundation for long-lasting recovery and change. This is his bottom line: “In the end my goal is to not have them lose that housing.”
David’s lived experience helps others gain the security and freedom that gives him so much strength.