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"I don't know what I would have done if it wasn't for ELAHP."
Two years ago, William was seventy-one years old, retired and living with his daughter and grandchildren in Roxbury. One night, while they were all asleep, the tenant in a unit above them set his apartment on fire. Within minutes, the whole building went up in flames. William and his family escaped, but the building was completely destroyed. William's daughter had some friends that she and her children could stay with. But there wasn't enough room for William. With nowhere else to go, William ended up in the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter, with three hundred other homeless men.
He had never been homeless before this. He had come to Boston from Mississippi in 1967, in search of a better life. For forty years, he worked hard in factories and other manual labor jobs. He had always paid his own way and was proud of that. Now that he was retired and living on a small social security check, he didn't have much left over at the end of the month to put away for a rainy day.
"I don't think I would have survived long at Pine Street," William says, remembering the first week after becoming homeless. "I don't know what I would have done if it wasn't for ELAHP."
William is quiet, and keeps mainly to himself. Despite his quiet personality, he is happy to share his experience with the Elders Living at Home Program. Because of ELAHP, William was able to avoid staying in the main part of the shelter and went instead to ELAHP's separate, smaller section of the shelter, where he was with just twenty other elders in similar positions as he was in. His case manager helped him get clothing since everything was lost in the fire, get new copies of his important documents, arrange medical appointments, and most importantly, apply for housing. Within a few months, they found him his own place. "I love it," he says of his one bedroom apartment in a brand new building in Boston. "They found me a place, got me furniture and moved me in."
William is seventy-three now. His voice is hoarse from recent treatments he underwent because of lung cancer. He isn't as active as he would like to be because of his illness. He says he'd like to be able to go out more often, drink coffee with friends, eat and play cards more. He has two living children, four grandchildren, and at least three great-grandchildren, and he does seem them now. He also enjoys playing bingo and cards with his neighbors. But mostly he is thankful to be able to come home to his own bed.
Despite all of the hardships William has faced recently with losing his home in a fire and then being diagnosed with cancer, he remains positive. When asked if he thinks his life in Boston has been better than it would have been in Mississippi, he says "yes, because I met these people from ELAHP."