Can you imagine rebuilding your life from the bottom, with no job, money in your pocket, secure place to live or support system? Digging out of that hole can be seemingly impossible. Add on health complications, staying sober, few affordable housing options, and a pandemic. For David “Dewey” and Nancy, not only was it possible but self-determination got them where they are today – thriving and giving back to the community that helped support them.
When you first meet Dewey and Nancy, it’s apparent how special they are and if you’re invited to their home you’ll quickly see how grateful they are to be living in one again. Not only did they find housing in Saratoga but they also found support and love. Their lives went down similar paths for years without ever knowing one another, then in May their lives converged.
His birthname is David but it never suited him. From an early age David earned the nickname “Dewey” because he always had to be doing something. Today he’s often found helping a friend, fixing a foundation, or raking the yard – no job is too big or small. His motivation to stay busy is one of the reasons he was able to quickly overcome homelessness in Saratoga. Just last winter Dewey found himself on the doorstep of Shelters of Saratoga’s Code Blue emergency winter shelter. With five years of sobriety under his belt, Dewey realized the shelter wasn’t the ideal environment for him to stay in. In February, a bed at the year-round shelter opened and Dewey moved in. He considered returning to the construction career he held for nearly four decades but feared it would compromise his sobriety. He began working on a housing plan with the staff at SOS and looking for jobs. Dewey worked hard to maintain his sobriety and when recovery resources all but ceased, he became a valuable resource to others at the shelter also trying to maintain their sobriety. He was a great friend and support system for people when regular support groups were scarce. That’s how Dewey and Nancy met.
When Nancy reflects back on her adult years, she beams with pride. She raised three children and ran a candy business for 17 years. Amidst these accomplishments she was struggling with addiction to alcohol a problem that escalated quickly. By her mid-30’s “the bottle took a firm grip on me,” Nancy recently reflected. Her relationship with her children was at stake if she didn’t get sober. It’s been six years since Nancy took her last drink and rebuilding her life has been challenging. She lives on a limited income due to a disability. She spent a few years with a roommate, then living with family but those living situations compromised her sobriety. When she came to SOS in May 2020, she knew she would only get out of the program what she was willing to put in. She immediately began volunteering to cook meals for the street outreach team and continued working on her sobriety alongside Dewey and others at the shelter. She was patient and trusted that if she kept moving forward her situation would improve.
Today, Nancy and Dewey live in a house owned by Shelters of Saratoga. The house is adjacent to nine motel units in the city which will undergo renovations later this year. When renovations are complete the units will become permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals. Dewey is now employed by SOS as caretaker of the property and Nancy volunteers her time washing blankets for the Code Blue shelter. “Being able to give back has helped me maintain my sobriety. I have a sense of purpose and I’m so grateful to be able to help others in my situation,” Nancy said.
Nancy and Dewey are two of many who with self-determination and the support of caring providers have overcome homelessness in our community.
To learn more about Shelters of Saratoga work please visit www.sheltersofsaratoga.org