Jamie met Paul in April of 2021 – right after she started her job as a Peer Recovery Coach at Greater
Cincinnati. Located in Over-the-Rhine, the building is home to the GCBHS C.A.R.E Team (Collaborations for Addictions, Recovery, & Engagement) as well as Respite Care, (for those coming out of the hospital with no place to go) and Mary Magdalen House which offers showers and clean clothes. The C.A.R.E team engages with people who are struggling with homelessness, mental illness, and/or addictions. They build relationships and try to help people get into services and connect to resources such as housing to improve their lives.
Jamie is a peer which means she has lived experience. “For me, I’ve been in those shoes, so I know what it’s like. I wish there were people doing what I do when I was out there. Spreading kindness makes a difference.”
Paul had been without a place to live since he lost his job due to the pandemic. He tried living in his car for a while, but when it was impounded, he had no money to get it out, and he lost that as well. That year was a bad one for Paul. He not only lost his mother and a favorite aunt, but his girlfriend passed away as well. She had helped him overcome an addiction but without her, Paul began to use drugs again, which made his situation worse. Then he met Jamie. “She introduced herself to me. She was new. And she wanted to help.” Jamie explains that Paul did not trust easily. He had been let down before and it was easier not to believe in someone than to be let down again. But Jamie was different. “We started small. He needed things like a blanket or a jacket…. a backpack…he was living under a bridge near Freeman Avenue, so he needed things to keep him warm.”
Jamie kept her word with Paul and was always honest. “He might get mad at me from time to time but he would always come back because he knew I wouldn’t lie to him. I told him he had to do his part.” Eventually, Jamie convinced Paul to sign up for services so she could get him the help he needed for his substance use disorder. Once he agreed, she was able to connect him to the GCBHS PATH Team (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness), which helps people who are not housed and need mental health services. With the assistance of PATH, she was able to find him stable housing and he moved into his apartment in August of this year. Soon Paul was asking her, “Why didn’t we do this two years ago?” Jamie laughs when Paul shares this part of his story. “He also neglected to tell me he was a veteran which opened additional resources. Now I am in contact with his support worker at the VA and we are all on the same page.”
Paul credits Jamie and GCBHS with helping him get back on his feet. “Jamie’s been an advocate for me. She helped me with housing and getting settled. She helped me make connections to resources. Life is a lot easier when you’re indoors. You can focus on things that need to get done.” One of the things Paul began focusing on was finding a job. So, Jamie introduced him to Justin, an Employment Specialist at GCBHS. Says Justin, “We’ve been working together for a couple of months. Paul is great at maintaining contact and showing up for appointments. He’s also focused and engaged when we meet and he’s doing some job searching on his own. He’ll hear of things or find them online and let me know he’s interested. And he knows what he wants to do. He has experience on the docks, and he’s really determined to return to a career that he enjoyed.”
Like Jamie, Justin considers himself a peer, “I’m four years sober so I particularly enjoy working with our clients who have a substance use disorder (SUD), because I feel I can relate to them, and it makes for strong working relationships.”
As for Paul, as of our deadline, he was still looking for the right job, but he has a lot of hope, “Jamie and the other GCBHS staff have done so much for me. She even helped me get Pablo, my emotional support dog. It’s nice to have a support system.”
Check out the full 2023 Annual Report HERE.