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How You Brought Walter Home

Walter spent most of his adulthood jumping from couch to couch, from friend to friend, and, in the lowest moments, from homeless shelter to homeless shelter…

Before coming home to Parkside Terrace, an affordable housing program at AHRC New York City that provides independent housing opportunities for nearly a dozen people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“After my last stay in the shelter system, my Care Manager told me ‘I’m going to get you in a good home, your own home,’ I was overjoyed.”

Walter grew up in the Bronx, raised by his mother and grandparents.

“I wanted to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps,” Walter said. “He worked for a moving company and I saw how he was working hard. It was inspirational. If Grandpa could do it I knew I could do it.” He began working in his teens, first in air conditioning repair, then for the city’s Meals on Wheels agency. Eventually he found his dream job through AHRC New York City – working for the Staten Island Ferry, where he has been since 2007.

For so many years, Walter lived wherever there was a room or a couch available. “I was always doing the roommate thing,” he recalled. Eventually, Walter ran out of rooms to stay in, and the resulting experiences have had a lasting effect on him.

“I had to go to a homeless shelter on 33rd Street, near Bellevue, it was like jail. You got to get up at 6:00 for breakfast, and then you go back to your room. You get dressed. When 8:00 comes, they kick you out, they come in and search everything. Every time you came in to the shelter, you had to get searched. I witnessed a lot when I was there: hard-hitting criminals, war veterans that fought in ‘Nam. I heard a lot of stories. It was like a nightmare. I knew I had to get out of there.”

Eventually, Walter found his way out of the 33rd Street shelter and moved in with a friend in an apartment that he loved. Unfortunately, after the lease expired, Walter had to rely on the shelter system once again. This time, he found a shelter near the ferry and spent about two-and-a-half months there before he heard about the apartment at Parkside Terrace. It is a far cry from the cramped and noisy shelters. “The people are nice in this neighborhood. It’s quiet and nobody bothers me!”

Today, Walter works closely with AHRC New York City staff members to supplement his independent living skills, including budgeting, cleaning, and cooking.

“Housing is a key component of social determinants of health,” said Jennifer Teich, AHRC New York City’s Director of Individualized Supports. “Walter has a stable home, people who know and care about him, and a neighborhood where he belongs. He can now work, eat, and sleep on his own schedule. Having stable housing has allowed Walter to live the life that he wants in a safe and beautiful building.”

With AHRC NYC’s support, Walter is thriving. “It means a lot to have my own space,” he said. “I’m learning something new every day.”

Today, AHRC New York City remains committed to empowering each person, like Walter, to realize his or her full potential, and continues to break down barriers that stand in the way.