A Staten Island native, who goes by Adrianna, never thought she’d be homeless. But after losing her accounting job in 2015, she began moving from place to place, staying with friends, even briefly leaving New York for Michigan.
“My life just started slowly declining. And I was frantically trying to avoid it [homelessness], but then it came to the point where there was no other choice,” she said.
Enter Care for the Homeless. Following a recommendation from Catholic Charities, Adrianna took a Greyhound bus back to the city — with just $100 in her pocket — eventually landing at Susan’s Place, a women’s shelter owned by CFH.
Three years later, Adrianna is living independently in the Bronx and is a member of the consumer advocacy board for the citywide nonprofit.
On Thursday, the organization that she says saved her life honored her at its fifth annual Summer Solstice Success Celebration at Broadway Presbyterian Church in Harlem as the winner of the organization’s “Story of Success” short essay contest. Reading her winning piece at the gathering, she told the crowd, “I can say happily now that it was a mixture of spirituality, courage, luck and perseverance, and Care for the Homeless, that saved my life.”
The Summer Solstice honors the successes of homeless people, which executive director George Nashak says does not happen enough.
“We want to make certain that the good news stories are getting out there as well,” Nashak said. “Those [stories] are people finding their way into permanent housing, people who were ill and chose to receive health care . . . and became healthy as a result. There’s a lot of good news about homeless people overcoming homelessness in New York City.”
Since its inception in 1985, CFH has provided social services and health care for the homeless community in New York City.
Other recipients were awarded during the event for achievements including sobriety and securing housing.
“Homelessness can be solved. Homelessness is a solvable problem if we, as a society, do the right thing,” City Councilman Mark Levine, who represents the 7th District in northern Manhattan, said to cheers. “Are you with me in this fight to end homelessness?”
For Adrianna, an important component to winning that fight is dispelling assumptions about the homeless.
“There’s a major stigma that you need to be addicted to drugs or alcohol or be running around in the street to be homeless. That’s not true,” she said. “Homelessness can happen to anybody, anytime, anywhere.”
Still, Adrianna believes that being homeless has made her a stronger person.
“It’s changed me forever. I’ll never be the same. I think I’m much stronger and I can help other people for it, because of it.”