Walk into Abe’s handsome home today, go down to his garage and see his Harley trike and you’d never know Abe used to be homeless. It cuts both ways. Look at someone in their prime today and neither you – nor they – could imagine they might be homeless a year from now. We’re all more vulnerable than we’d like to think.
Homeless Not Hopeless saved Abe’s life – and he’s more than willing to tell you how.
Abe grew up in Springfield. His father was Armenian; his mom, a local girl. Neither had even a high school education. Life was hard scrabble. During the 1960s, his mom moved out, then his dad disappeared on him too. Soon enough, the sheriff showed up with a lawyer and a locksmith to change the locks and throw him out. Rent was owed and certainly Abe couldn’t pay it. He was 14. Where could he go, he asked but that wasn’t the sheriff’s problem, nor the lawyers. So, there he was, homeless at 14. There was no extended family for him to turn to.
For a year, Abe lived in dumpsters. They offered a roof from the weather and often, there was some food tossed in he could eat. He washed dishes when he could get the work. Some girls from Smith college founded an anti-war bookstore. Abe could work there and the girls snuck him into their dorms to take showers. He found a 20 dollar a month room and washed dishes for a hospital.
Abe grew up in a contradiction. He knew how to work hard – but still felt like a “throw-away individual.” He found a woman but was divorced by 24. He remarried and started going to school, eventually owning a janitorial services company. He got his GED, then a BA in criminal justice… later a Master’s in business. He found a dilapidated house on Cape Cod to make a summer house – but then fell into a rough divorce. You can imagine, given his childhood, what abandonment trauma might do to such a man. Abe fell apart. Soon, he was homeless again – looking at the life he’d built as might a drowning sailor seeing everything far above him, shimmering on the surface. “Suicide was an option,” Abe says, his voice flat. His Cape Cod property was too dilapidated to legally inhabit – and he had no money to fix it.
If Abe had one saving grace, he had never turned to booze for comfort. Instead, when comfort arrived, it was human. Bob McGillveary and Billy Bishop from Homeless not Helpless brought him into Baxter House and the folks there loved him through it. There were regular chores and meetings with housemates. There was, Abe says, a purpose… a reason for living. He’ll be the first to tell you, Homeless not Helpless saved his life.
Things started to look up. With money from his divorce settlement, Abe began to refurbish his house. Working with an estate sale business, he found new work – and in return, the outfit found him some items to furnish his house. He got on Social Security.
Now, Abe is giving back. He’s still meeting with the residents at Baxter House, offering encouragement and services as a driver – something he does professionally, part time. He offers pro-bono legal assistance. Abe sums it up. “I try in my little world to help people and do positive things. Stay God-centered,” he says. “Never give up on yourself; there’s light at the end of the tunnel – even if it’s still miles away.”
“Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” runs the old adage. But we all know that sometimes people suffer blows from which they never recover. The people at Homeless Not Hopeless – and all who support us – believe that love and patience can make all the difference in tipping the balance back to recovery… back to life. We’re proud of Abe and proud to have been in his story. We hope you are too.