It’s a concept I never really thought much about. My parents built ours before I was born. From ages 5 through 18, the big, yellow school bus dropped me off at the end of my driveway, and I walked up the small incline to my front door. I dropped my coat and backpack lazily on the floor, plopped down on the couch, and caught up on TV shows that I had DVR’d for getting ready to spend the night at my dance studio. I spent countless nights having sleepovers in my living room, eating cereal at my kitchen table, and doing homework in my bedroom. I never thought twice about what it would be like to not have that place of security I could always come back to day after day. I admittedly took this luxury for granted, and probably still do: my friend, visiting from another university, commented on how nice my apartment was, and I shrugged it off, stating how the brand-new Gateway apartments were nicer.
Then I came to Rubicon. While sitting in on an anger management training session, where clients from the HOPE center learn how to cope with their mental illnesses and how emotions affect their substance abuse issues, I noticed a man, perhaps in his mid-twenties, sit away from the oval table, alone in the corner. The clinician, Lynn, went around the room asking each client their number on the anger scale over the past few days (0 was not having not been angry at all, 10 was an instance in which their anger had caused consequences). When she arrived at this particular man, there seemed to be no life in his eyes. He simply replied “zero.” When Lynn pressed him, he opened up a bit. He explained that the staff from Rubicon had taken him and a couple other clients to visit possible housing options for post-release, but everything was out of his price range. As a last-resort, they had visited a halfway house, but he complained this option lacked privacy and that that way of living wasn’t for him. He lamented that he hated Virginia and wanted to get out of the state. However, he the lacked resources, such as money and a supportive family, to do so.
Hearing this was jarring to me. This man had settled down at Rubicon over the past month. He had belongings here, had made friends with the clients and staff, and felt as if he had progressed in terms of his depression and substance abuse. But clearly, this man had a ways to go. He had said his anger was at a 0 when truthfully he was severely upset with his situation. He needed more support and clarity, as his release date was the very next day. A nonprofit, Rubicon simply does not have the means to help their clients find accommodations post-release. So where do these people go when they have nowhere to go? Surely there are similar scenarios occurring at prisons and drug rehabilitation facilities daily across the country. After having been marginalized from society, the last thing this young man wanted to do was live in a halfway house that would further marginalize him and perhaps encourage old habits of drug abuse, depending on who was living with him. To me, the saddest part of this was that this man had voluntarily checked himself into this facility in an effort to better himself, and somewhere along the way, he lost the support of his family (he said he was no longer able to move back home). It is often difficult to support, care for, love, and accept yourself when you feel as if no one cares for you. The staff at Rubicon provide the resources and emotional support that is within their capabilities, but I believe a stronger societal force is needed to swoop in and help these people. I forget sometimes that $400 per month for rent and utilities is far beyond peoples’ means. We must meet them where they’re at. I do believe the Rubicon staff attempted to do just that by showing the young man a cheaper option in the halfway house, but although the price of this option was within his means, the environment of the halfway house was not.
Maybe the next time I’m home, I’ll take the extra five seconds to hang up my coat after I walk up the small incline to my front door. Because although I am fortunate enough to have a stable place to call home, that may not always be the case.