I hope your holidays were restful, recharging, and relaxing. Here at Green Doors, 2013 was a great year.
We served nearly 400 individuals and families with affordable housing and supportive services. These residents are stably housed, becoming more financially self-sufficient, reuniting with their families, and building new skill sets they never thought possible. Indeed, over 90% of them remained stably housed and maintained or increased their household income this year – an amazing feat when you consider that similar programs nationally average less than 50% success rates.
Scott Clapper knows a thing or two about hard work.
A resident of Green Doors for nearly four years, Scott worked for more than 30 years in factories. He made shoes, garments, computer components, you name it. As he put it, he punched a clock. But he was never late and he never complained. When one of his factory jobs was cut, he moved from place to place and held various jobs, from property manager to auto body repair worker. He even ran a marina.
Community isn’t really a physical thing or a place. It’s created between people, and it’s one of the core principles of Green Doors approach. But it’s really hard to explain, because it’s not what people think of when they think of solving homelessness.
They think of safe, clean affordable housing. And we certainly provide that. We house over 375 Central Texans annually with a safe and clean place to live.
In the blistering hot, drought-ridden summer of 2011, I relocated from New York City to Austin, Texas. In New York, I had worked as the Director of Social Services at a municipal homeless shelter that housed 202 single male substance abusers. There was never a dull moment in that job! The shelter provided basic needs to 202 single men, and was much appreciated.
I want to tell you a story not just about one of our properties, but about the tenacity of our staff and their dedication to our residents and community. When we first came to Pecan Springs Commons, it was a hotbed of criminal activity, a place no one felt safe. So in addition to renovating the buildings, we had to renovate the community. Our Deputy Director, Christa Noland, had a fence built between two properties that for decades served as the drug dealers’ path into the neighborhood cul-de-sac.
Overnight, the fence was torn down. The next morning, our Maintenance Manager repaired it. The next night the fence was torn down again. The following morning, he rebuilt it again.
They’d pull it down by hand. They’d attach it to a car with chains and drive away. They’d cut it with a saw. And every time they did, we rebuilt it. Immediately.
Our staff began to feel that if we could get the fence to stay up, we would win.
Victor Nelms’ apartment is perfectly neat. His kitchen is spotless. He has a firm handshake and looks you in the eye when he says hello. And he uses your name when he speaks, like he’s known you for years. You’d never know that he was living on the streets four years ago. Or that he was addicted to crack for most of his adult life and wasted a career in the Army getting high. But it doesn’t take long for him to tell you all about it.
Scott Clapper is many things. A collector, folk artist, and inventor, Scott first came to Green Doors as a disabled veteran struggling to keep a roof over his head. Today, he lives in a meticulously kept one-bedroom apartment at Pecan Springs Commons, the walls lined with shelves featuring an extensive mineral collection.
When Green Doors resident Lewis Stennis came home from his deployment in Iraq in 2009, he found himself homeless at 21. Despite the challenges he faced, including brain injuries sustained from combat, the now 24-year-old has fought his way to college. Click through to read one soldier’s inspiring story…