TomTom has lived all over the world. Europe, Asia, Africa. Today, after being homeless for twenty years, he lives in Section 8 housing in San Francisco. Like many other adults who are struggling to get by, he visits Project Homeless Connect to access its many free services.
“I got these nifty sunglasses,” Tom said of a recent visit, “and I got some reading glasses ’cause I’ve got a little library at my little house. I talked to the Senior Services people and…to the veterans’ group.”
He was even able to get a free back massage. Project Homeless Connect is “all encompassing,” Tom concluded.
Tom’s journey to PHC was a rambling one. When he was a child, the family followed his father, a teacher, from job to job, from continent to continent. Tom was 10 years old when they moved to Sudan, where his father taught at a college. When civil war hit a year later, the family fled, leaving behind everything “except for us.” After a short stay in Europe, they returned to the States: this time to California, then Iowa, then Florida. Eventually, Tom landed in Missouri.
“I moved to Missouri,” Tom recalled, “’cause I had some childhood issues. So I went to the boys’ home.”
Later, a tour of duty with the U.S. Marine Corps took him to Viet Nam and throughout Asia. When his tour ended, he returned to California and worked for the Highway Patrol. Over the next few years, Tom moved from job to job, providing security for dignitaries and celebrities, Las Vegas hotels and casinos, and, then, a detective agency.
Then something went wrong. “People said, ‘You’re a great worker when you’re here but you’re just not here anymore,’” Tom recalled. “‘You’re not here physically, you’re not here emotionally, you’re not here.’”
For the first time, he was without a home. “One day I woke up and talked to someone, I said, ‘I don’t know what went wrong.’ I had all this stuff going on that was good and now I’m sitting here with my backpack living in a street.”
Tom’s problems, it turned out, were linked to alcoholism and drug addiction. He sought help at veterans’ and recovery programs. Today, he is an artist and an actor who volunteers at local agencies in his spare time.
“Have faith and don’t give up.” Tom recently offered, adding, as an afterthought, “Keep moving.”