Caring Connections: Johnny's Story

By Bill Cobun, Outreach Specialist with Capital Crossroads and Discovery SIDs



I first found Johnny asleep on his walker with all his belongings attached to it. He was outside the Subway restaurant on Town Street on a rainy day. Our Downtown SID ambassadors contacted me about an older gentleman that needed help.

Johnny, 61, was in the homeless respite at the Van Buren Shelter for the past two months due to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Van Buren offers respite for those with medical conditions coming out of a hospital stay. He was shocked when they ended the program abruptly, putting him and many others out on the streets.

Johnny had been homeless on and off since 2014. He couch surfed when he could but stayed outside quite a bit until his health took a bad turn. He carried a portable respirator that he charged at Grant Medical Center.

I introduced myself as an outreach specialist with the special improvement districts. Johnny said he was working with the Maryhaven Engagement Center. When I called, I found he had not worked with them in quite a while, so I did his intake work there on the patio of the building.

Fortunately, I could submit a subsidized housing application to the shelter board almost immediately because Maryhaven had his birth certificate and Social Security card, and Johnny had his Ohio ID card. Johnny had priority because of the severity of his medical conditions, which included chronic health problems, mental health, and habitual alcoholism.

I saw Johnny in front of the Greyhound station with his walker almost every day as we waited for a referral. One of the most fortunate things for him in this process was that he had his own phone. This allowed me to text him, even when he ran out of talk minutes.

Johnny was referred to the YMCA on Long Street about a month later. We interviewed with the Y, and he decided he could make it work. We did an application for his first month’s rent and deposit, and Johnny moved in soon after. It’s been about 6 months, and Johnny is still living there.