Community Housing Network helps make a difference in the lives of people like Nichelle and Harry. Read their stories and see how CHN has made a positive impact in their lives by providing a stable environment through supportive housing.
After being sexually and physically abused in her youth, Nichelle married at the age of 15 to escape the turmoil in her life. Unfortunately, Nichelle also used drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. She quickly became pregnant, and her husband, who also had substance abuse issues, was mentally abusive. Nichelle finally got the courage to leave her abusive husband, but bounced around in unstable environments—from homes of friends and family to temporary shelters—for more than 20 years, all while dealing with her substance abuse issue. In her final stay at a shelter, Nichelle, desperately wanting to change her life around, worked with her case manager to find stable housing.
It has been nearly three years since Nichelle was placed at Community Housing Network’s East Fifth Avenue Apartments, and she has worked hard to maintain her sobriety and improve her relationship with her four children. “All my services are here, and I don’t have to worry about transportation,” Nichelle said. “I’ve never had anything this nice. I don’t know where I’d be without this apartment.” Nichelle will soon start her last semester at Daymar College. She plans to use her education in business, hospitality and customer service to open a bed and breakfast.
In a life challenged with severe mental illness, there have been many lows for Harry. Perhaps, the most striking occurred when he was living outdoors in Columbus. "In the springtime, I would hear the helicopter overhead and they sprayed for mosquitoes," Harry said.
As the suffocating fog descended, he thought, "If it kills mosquitoes, what's it going to do to me"?
Schizophrenia took away Harry's home and career as a computer programmer, but it never robbed him of his dignity. Although uprooted by homelessness and illness, Harry's life is a success. He has lived in Community Housing Network apartments for 15 years, holding a CHN lease longer than any other resident.
CHN has been very accepting. It's wonderful to not worry what the landlord will think if they know you have schizophrenia," Harry said. "The other persons in the building have mental handicaps also and that gives me some comfort."
Before the illness struck, Harry earned multiple college degrees and served as a minister and Latin teacher. Now he lives quietly at home. "I attend the CHN annual picnic as a place to go to mix socially with people who won't look down on you because you have a mental illness," Harry said.
Harry keeps occupied by playing a small keyboard, using his computer, and sending letters to friends and relatives. Harry volunteers for CHN, helping residents with their resumes and other support. "There's nothing I could do to prevent the illness, and I certainly didn't want it," Harry said. "Even though I have a strike against me, it's nice to know that you have a purpose in life."