Story #22

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Ronald G. – “Crossing a bridge” to better health and stability

The Brook

Ronald finally has a safe, permanent place to call home. At age eight, he moved into foster care, but ran away and dropped out of high school in his teens after suffering abuse from his foster parents. For the next 20 or so years, Ronald had been in and out of various homeless shelters and SROs (single room occupancy housing).

Ronald was diagnosed with HIV in the ’90s. He had difficulty staying healthy while bouncing around the shelter system. After two decades of struggling through life like this, Ronald decided to start prioritizing his health and was referred to The Brook by New York City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration.

When he first met staff at The Brook, Ronald recalls, “I knew I was in the right place. They made me feel secure.” He moved in last September, and “it’s been a real journey” ever since. In 2011 Ronald had been getting sick and was hospitalized with pneumonia for five days, giving him time to think. He realized “if I didn’t get myself together, I wasn’t going to be here next year.” Today Ronald is healthy and managing his HIV. He says, “This has been like crossing over a bridge for me,” acknowledging that he’s seen a lot of people close to him not take care of themselves or get support, and they are no longer with us.

The Brook provides Ronald with the centralization of care he needs to stay on track. Ronald says “I feel more stable” having all the support he needs in the same place as where he lives. With the supervision of his social worker Maggie Lo, he takes his HIV meds every day as part of the medication monitoring program, one of the many services The Brook provides. Maggie notes the importance of “setting up structure” for Ronald’s success.

Ronald credits his participation in the Wellness Self-Management program, led by clinical coordinator Barbara Miliano, with helping him “deal with myself and find myself.” Due to ongoing struggles with anxiety, depression, and stress, Ronald has benefited from the stress and harm reduction elements of the program, as well as the focus on problem solving. It’s also put him back in touch with his creative, artistic side. As “an artist ever since I was a little boy,” Ronald loves to paint, draw, knit, and crochet, which keep him feeling well.

Ronald knows that he’s “made a lot of progress here – a lot more in this one year than the five years before.” He has now begun to think about returning to work or perhaps furthering his education, and has started preparing through The Brook’s Employment Connect program. Ronald has a lot of ideas for what his future may bring – working with kids, art therapy, his own business based around the t-shirts and other clothing he creates (work in progress pictured on Ronald above), etc. The biggest thing, Ronald says, is his newfound relationship with his frail, elderly mother. “BronxWorks helped me to be strong so I could be strong for her,” he reflects, noting that “the staff go above and beyond” and stressing the importance of Barbara’s and Maggie’s support through this process.

The Brook “has a lot to offer, but you have to be willing and open,” Ronald says, pointing out that it took him some time to become fully open to all the support available. By embracing it, he now knows firsthand the power of having his life lifted with a bright future ahead, thanks to our terrific partners and supporters!

The Brook is a six-story residence developed by Common Ground, with 190 units of permanent supportive housing for low-income workers, people with HIV/AIDS, and chronically homeless individuals, including individuals with mental illness. BronxWorks provides the supportive social services to The Brook’s residents. Questions or comments? Send them to info@bronxworks.org.

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