Teamwork Makes a Dream Come True
“It takes a village” has never rung more true than in the case of newly former shelter guest Raymond. Raymond came to the shelter almost a year ago, the result of what many aging individuals on a limited income face with the rising cost of living in New Jersey. He had been evicted from his home after not being able to keep up with his rent, which cost more than what he was receiving in Social Security. Add in poor credit, and finding an affordable place to move to became virtually impossible.
Raymond also came with some special needs – he is diabetic and brought with him his service cat Tabitha, a first at the shelter. By lying on Raymond’s chest, Tabitha is able to sense when his body temperature changes and blood sugar drops too low. She then wakes and alerts Raymond to eat and stabilize his blood sugar. Raymond’s stay at the shelter was an adjustment not only for him, but a challenge for shelter staff who had to make sure they were attuned to his geriatric and nutritional needs, as well as adapting to the presence of an animal at the shelter.
In March, Raymond was featured in a northjersey.com/Bergen Record story as part of a series ‘Aging in New Jersey’ (https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/watchdog/2023/03/28/senior-homeless-shelter-nj-social-security-not-enough-for-housing/69898315007/)and how he found himself to be living in a shelter at the age of 64. Little did we know how much support for Raymond would come from that article. He began receiving gift cards and money in the mail, including a PetSmart gift card for supplies and food for Tabitha. And with the help of Housing & Prevention Division Manager Dominic Costanzo, he was finally able to secure a Section 8 voucher and find an affordable unit to rent!
Raymond moved into his apartment on his 65th birthday at the beginning of May, thanks to the help of so many of our shelter staff who made sure he was prepared and set up with the continuing care that he needs. Shannon Muti, Director of Programs & Services made sure his refrigerator and cabinets were stocked with the food he needed for his diet, and greeted Raymond as he walked through the door to his new home for the first time. Our amazing friend Kim Sleeman and her crew at The Warehouse NJ, made it possible for Raymond to pick out his furniture the day before his move and had it set up for him by the time he got to his apartment. The Knights of Columbus and Dominic made sure the items in Raymond’s storage unit were cleared out and moved into his apartment.
On the day Raymond moved in he slowly walked around his apartment, smartly dressed in one of his signature “track suits”, his fragile body visibly tired from a busy but exciting week. He touched each piece of furniture, opening the storage boxes that were coming in to see the contents he had missed all of these months, and spoke to the reporter who was back to interview him for a second time to highlight this transition. “I owe this all to them,” he told the reporter quietly, referring to the Programs & Services staff that had supported him all of these months. “I don’t know where I’d be right now without their help.” As Raymond continued to tick off items he remembered he needed – Shannon just kept repeating “I’ll help you with that, don’t worry.”
To read the northjersey.com article about Raymond’s transition from shelter to independent living, click here: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/state/2023/05/08/nj-man-morris-plains-apartment-homeless/70174056007/