"These incredible stories are the reasons we go to work everyday."
Family Support Program Team Leader
“I listened this time. I wanted something different. I started paying attention. I started learning not about drugs but about myself. I learned to love myself.”
Renaissance was able to find Ray stable, housing of his own, for the first time in over 20 years.
Ray grew up in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green Housing Projects and became surrounded by drug abuse, violence, and gangs from a very early age. He quickly became no stranger to hardship and tragedy. At a young age he witnessed his brother lose his life as a result of gun violence, right before his eyes. He continued to witness violence and abuse, even within the walls of his own home. Eventually, seeing it as his only outlet, Ray began using drugs as a way to numb his pain.
“My drug use stemmed from deeper issues that I was trying to suppress. I didn’t know how to ask for help so I started doing drugs to get away from my problems. In black culture mental illness is taboo, I was ashamed. It’s a stupid stigma, now that I’m older I can realize that” Ray shares.
Ray admits he is not proud of the things he did in his past. But he knows that every step of the way lead him to where he is today and eventually saved his life.
“From age 17 to 40 the only birthday’s I spent out of jail were 21, 25, 30 and 40. Between 1997 and 2020 I have not been off the streets for longer than 11 months at a time. And all my cases revolved around my drug addiction”. Ray tells us.
When we asked Ray what sets apart the support he’s receiving at Renaissance Social Services from his past attempts to change his life path, he explained, “I listened this time. I wanted something different. I started paying attention. I started learning not about drugs but about myself. I learned to love myself.” Renaissance was able to find Ray stable, housing of his own, for the first time in over 20 years. He told us what this means to him,
“August of 2020 it’ll be one year of me living here. My daughter is the best thing to happen to me. This place is the second best. It’s my own place and truly a blessing. I appreciate it to the fullest.”
Ray tells us the greatest thing he’s been able to accomplish in the last year of having stable housing is a better relationship with his daughter.
“I have a deeper bond with her now. She can come visit me here, we spend time together, I cook for her, having my own place made that all possible. I always want to go above and beyond for my daughter.”
Ray’s dream is to share his story with others, especially Chicago’s youth, “If one person can learn from my story, I’ll be happy”. This month (August 2020) Ray will be turning 41 years old and celebrating one year in his home. Happy Birthday, Ray! We are so happy to be a part of your journey.
"I often tell my daughter, 'If you hang around people who do what you don’t do, you’ll eventually start doing it.' I started hanging out with druggies…and I became one.”
Lamar & Jazmen
“It started with my move to California when I was 29. I had a job, a wife and was paying my bills. Life was good. But eventually my marriage broke up and I developed a serious addiction. I realized I’d be dead or in jail if I didn’t leave California.
“When I returned to Chicago, I was 37 and had nothing but a big old addiction habit. I lived on the streets, in shelters or cheap motels. When you’re an addict and alone, you wonder what your purpose is. One major factor that turned me around was when I got my daughter Jazmen. She made me realize what my purpose was.
“While living in an SRO, I got a call from DCFS saying that I had to take Jazmen and provide her with a stable home. The SRO wouldn’t take me and my daughter, so I had to find a place to live. WIth the help of a friend, I found Renaissance and got access to a two bedroom apartment along with services to help Jazmen and me. Renaissance Social Services gave me resources, an apartment and services. And I was in a place to accept them.
“I’ve been in my present apartment for 4 years and sober for 8 years. I just want to stay put. Today, I’m trying to give Jazmen a stable, loving home.”
In the early 1990s, Mark lost his job and found himself thrust into homelessness. Suffering from undiagnosed depression and anxiety, Mark went from shelter to shelter to Single Room Occupancy (SRO) until he finally found his way to Renaissance Social Services.
“I can’t say enough about the case managers at RSSI,” says Mark. “They’ve given me support when I needed it and helped me manage my depression and anxiety. On the streets you can’t stay compliant with your medicines, but here, in my own home, I can.” With treatment and housing, Mark has even been able to reconnect with family, reestablishing a relationship with his sister. “It’s like night and day.”