Since he was 37, Ron’s struggled with homelessness off and on. Now he’s 62, and for the first time in so long, he has a home where he’s safe and can start thinking about the next chapters in his life. Foremost on his mind, is reconnecting with his children and grandchildren just in time for Christmas, and succeeding at his new job in a very unique bakery.
So, as we revel in this holiday season, we want to look back on Ron’s courageous journey from the streets to achieving housing and a good job.
Click The Video Above to Watch Ron’s Inspirational Story!
And be sure to read the story below for all of the amazing details about Ron’s journey from homelessness to housing.
This is Ron’s story.
Ron grew up like anyone else. He had a loving father, who was an Army veteran, and a twin sister. He went to high school and even took college courses to become an x-ray technician. Eventually, he earned a job working for the railroad as an engineer trainee. Then, as can happen so quickly, he lost his job and, around that same time, he divorced his wife. Taken together, these spelled disaster for Ron’s life. With nowhere else to go, Ron struggled to maintain odd jobs and, ultimately, housing off an on for the past 25 years. To make matters worse, Ron struggled with untreated substance use and depression, which made Ron’s struggle back to a “normal” life that much harder.
Sadly, homelessness had taken a tragic toll on Ron’s life over the years to the point he thought his life would never change for the better. He’s been brutally beaten up, endured bone-chilling cold and over 100-degree summer days.
“I went through some pretty dark times, but I knew I wasn’t alone in those struggles,” he said. “I drew strength from the people who were going through it, too. I tried to tell them to smile and try to do what they needed to do to better themselves and change their situations. Because being homeless is no way to live … no way to live for anyone.”
Most recently, Ron ended up in an emergency room for a severe foot injury, which proved to be a blessing in disguise. See, Ron was warming himself on a cold night by his campfire when he nodded off. Trouble was, his shoe was too close to the flames and caught fire. The next morning, and for days after, Ron tried to endure the pain, but he finally ended up in the hospital to receive skin grafts for the severe burn. As painful as that foot injury was, that’s when everything good started for Ron because he realized he didn’t want that life for himself anymore.
First Steps to Housing
Around this time, Ron had met our own Noe Rodriguez, who spends his days reaching out to people experiencing homelessness. Once Noe meets them in hidden encampments, or under bridges, he builds up their trust by visiting them as often as it takes to convince them that, yes, they can escape life on the streets and start life anew in housing.
Before that could happen for Ron, Noe needed him to answer one question: “Are you ready to change?” Ron said yes and the process to getting a safe place began.
Among the first steps for Ron to achieve housing was Noe helping him reconnect with Social Security benefits. This was a challenge because Ron’s Social Security debit card, which had been pre-loaded with months of payments, had been stolen. Noe helped Ron get a new card.
Then came the search for an apartment. Ron had three choices but selected the very first Mental Health Association Oklahoma apartment he saw. It was his miracle on 48th Street. Sometimes I doubt whether there are miracles to be had out there, but there definitely still are,” Ron said. “For that, I’m really appreciative every day.”
And he was grateful for the donated furniture, cooking utensils, everything he’d need to start a new life in a new home. “Moving in was a great feeling … still is a great feeling,” Ron said with a smile on his face.
The one constant in Ron’s life when he was homeless was that he always wanted to work. Although it was difficult, Ron landed various odd jobs and temp work to make what little money he could. Having a job meant everything to Ron because it gave him self-worth and a step towards getting off the streets.
When Ron moved into his apartment, he had a roof over his head and was ready to start connecting to treatment. Still, there was something missing: A job.
At the time, Ron hadn’t worked in over a year, which, in itself, was a barrier to employment. That’s when Noe told Ron about the Altamont Bakery, which is a partnership between the Association and B’nai Emunah synagogue. The bakery takes its name from the Altamont Apartments, where the Association offers people coming straight off the streets a safe place to live and connects them to vital services in the community. Together, people impacted by mental illness who live within Association housing, work at the bakery to make well over 1,000 cookies a week that are sold across the community to help pay the bakers’ wages.
“The people are nice and it’s great to be back in society and have some normalcy,” Ron said of the bakery.
Sitting on his living room couch, Ron looked around his apartment and said, “Having a place like this is a home plate where I can get up to bat and see what I can do. I’m not getting any younger … I’m getting older and I ought to be getting wiser.
“My goal, which it’s always been, has been to try to be more of a good person than a bad person. I’ve got a future now. My kids are grown, and they’ve got kids — three or four grandkids I haven’t even seen yet — but I’ll get a chance to see them soon. If I’m improving, they’ll feel better about me and themselves. That’s what I’m looking forward to.
“I feel positive enough now that I’m going to keep moving forward,” Ron continued. “I may slip and fall every now and then but I’m going to get right back up again.”
On behalf of everyone at the Association, thank you for being a part of Ron’s story. Please help make a difference this holiday season for others like Ron by making a donation today!