When DJ walks into the room, it’s not just his 6 ́3 ̋ stature that you notice –it’s his smile. DJ is a tenant in Pine Street’s house on Hartford Street in Dorchester. Hartford provides a safe, stableplace, along with support for homeless veterans.
DJ joined the Navy right out of high school. His uncle and father were in the Navy as well, so he felt called to serve. After being discharged, he moved back to Roxburywhere his family lived. When his mother became ill, DJ moved in to help care for her.
In 2004, DJ’s mother passed away and his life started to fall apart. Although he was working as a computer technician, he was not earning enough for rent. He looked for other jobs without any luck. Between his own health issues, including several back surgeries and major financial challenges, DJ became homeless.It was then that he connected with Pine Street, where staff told him about the veterans’program at Hartford Street.
“I never thought, ‘I want to be homeless,’” DJ said. “I didn’t want to be in this situation.Luckily this program was here for me when I needed it. They’re helping me get my thoughts in order. I’m taking a better look at myself, and it’s really motivated me to help someone else and pay it forward. My ambition is back.”At Hartford Street, tenants have their own rooms with shared kitchen, bathrooms and common areas. Staff at the house helptenantsconnectwithcommunityservicesandmaintainstability,aswellasadvocateforaccesstomaximumveterans’ benefits.
DJ attends all the house meetings, and even cooks for some of them. Yvonne Williams, his case manager, smiles when she talks aboutDJ. “He’s a go-getter. He wants to be productive; he wants towork.”DJ is grateful for the support. “I love the staff. I appreciate everything they do for me. They take care of me –not just because I’m a veteran, but because I’m a human being.”