One of the Grown-Ups
Patrick was a serious child: thoughtful, curious and inquisitive; the “thinker” of the family.
He grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland and farmlands of northeast Ohio, one of four siblings belonging to a single mother. His father left the picture early, but his maternal grandmother helped fill the familial void.
“I was close to my grandmother — I was one of her favorites,” he said. “I was the kid that stayed with the adults instead of my siblings or cousins. I loved the stories and the history.”
Patrick spent many holidays and summer breaks with his aunt in the coal country of nearby West Virginia (his only real church visits were there and were limited to the church’s high holy days) and also enjoyed visiting the senior citizens that populated his mom’s place of work — a nursing home.
When he was 16, Patrick began working in landscaping. By the time he finished high school, he owned his own truck and was working as a foreman. He was self-sufficient and lived with a good friend from the time he was 17 until his first marriage at 21. It was around that time that Patrick decided to track down his father. After a 22-year absence, the two were reunited near his father’s home in central Florida. I wasn’t perfect, but it was something.
“It was good for me, but hard for him,” he said. “But we got to know each other again. Later, when he got cancer, I went down to help him around the house and be with him in the end.”
A few years later, after Patrick’s first marriage ended in divorce, he was looking for a change of scenery and chose Florida as his new home.
“I needed a change and it didn’t take me long to find one,” he said.
A Place in the Sun
After moving to Florida in the early ’90s, Patrick found a job working as a custodian at a nursing home in Clearwater Beach.
“I got to meet a lot of people and there was a lot of history,” he said. “One that sticks out in my mind is Ms. Hughes. She was a real Southern Belle. … She was born in 1899 and was 102 when she passed. She saw a lot and had a lot of stories. She was even a concert pianist at Carnegie Hall at one point.”
During his nearly two decades in Florida, Patrick had multiple long-term relationships, including his second marriage. Despite this, he never had kids of his own. Instead, he built relationships with his several stepchildren — he’s even kept in touch with a few.
His last relationship was a loving one. Shortly after his last divorce in 2004, Patrick met a woman who would be by his side until cancer claimed her life five years later (just two years after the same disease killed his father).
“Her death hit me hard,” he said. “It was rough. She didn’t want me to be there to see her die. But I stood there and said, ‘I love you and I’m staying right here.’ That really blew her away.”
Patrick describes that time as the worst in his life — a mark in time to which he can point back and say, “that’s when things really started to fall apart.”
“I ended up in a very, very bad depression,” he said. “I was hospitalized twice because I was suicidal. I was still trying to work — I was a foreman at a landscaping company back in Florida — and I couldn’t do it, so I just quit. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to go through.”
A Stranger in a Strange Land
Patrick was ready for another change of scenery.
Still reeling from loss, he reconnected with an old friend in Colorado and moved out west in 2010. But the relocation wasn’t easy, and he had a hard time acclimating — both personally and professionally.
“She sent me a Greyhound ticket and I stayed with her for about eight months,” he said. “I couldn’t find a job and I eventually ended up at a shelter. I finally got a job, but it didn’t go well. I still needed help, and I wasn’t getting it.”
Things began to look up for Patrick in 2012, when he was hired to work at a truck storage facility on the south end of town. The position was a combination of security and maintenance and came with the perk of onsite living. Life seemed to be equalizing: he began seeking treatment for his mental health struggles and was finally working again.
“We tried lots of different meds, until eventually we found the right one — total game-changer,” he said. “Counseling really helped, too. We talked about things from my past. Once I started doing that and got on medicine, I haven’t had an issue since.”
By 2018, Patrick had found stability. He was feeling better physically, mentally and emotionally; but his life was once again plunged into chaos when he lost both his job and his living situation on the same day. In desperation, he came to Springs Rescue Mission.
“It was hard and scary when I came here,” he said. “I started Work Engagement right I got here and that’s been a really, really good thing. … I’ve been able to help a lot of people, and that really means a lot. I never had an argument. I made lots of friends. Now I’m calm, and I’m helpful.”
The Sun Also Rises
In 2018, while Patrick was still living in the Men’s Shelter and participating in Work Engagement, he met Kim (who was living in the Women’s Shelter at the time). They hit it off, scheduling themselves to work together and spending much of their time off with each other.
“Having Kim really does make things a lot easier for me,” he said. “She’s a really strong person, and we have each other’s back. If I need a helping hand, she’s there. And she knows that when she needs a helping hand, I’m here. We make a good team.”
Last June, Patrick and Kim were accepted to live in an apartment at Greenway Flats. It was the first time in years either of them had a home to call their own — much less someone to share it with.
“Things just really clicked into place,” he said. “And everything has been really, really good.”
After serving as team leads in Work Engagement, Patrick and Kim left the program in June to pursue full-time volunteer opportunities at Greenway Flats. Patrick said he’s excited to see where it leads, hoping that it might one day lead to a full-time position.
“I’m here and I’m working hard,” he said. “I’ve come from the bottom and worked my way up. But it took a lot of years, and I was fighting with myself the whole way. It’s good to see things finally start to come together again.”
Last year, he completed the Careers in Construction program to learn skills that might make him a more attractive hire for a job in the trades. And since moving into Greenway Flats last July, he’s taken to gardening in the small community garden out back. He especially cares for his tomatoes, which he says remind him of the old family garden back home.
Patrick is reflective about his journey and just how far he’s come. He’s quick to help others navigate the often-difficult world of living in a shelter. Quiet guidance and mentorship is his way of giving back — an expression of his gratitude for Springs Rescue Mission and to the people who have helped him along the way.
“If you don’t have a choice, it would be good to come here to take advantage of all the programs they have to help people,” he said. “I’d recommend that anyone here find a case manager and have them help you get back on your feet and move on. … You will get back on your feet. You will have a place to call home. Things will get better. You just have to stay positive. Keep reaching out. Keep asking for help. It’s hard, but it’s good. Take advantage of it while you can. Because it helps.”
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