“Blessed and Highly Favored” is the mantra of Arthur, a participant in the Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative. Arthur was referred to the program nearly a year ago. He is a man of few words but a man of great hope. Prior to PAD, Arthur had been experiencing homelessness and using substances, unsure of whether or not he had a choice and what those choices were. The night of his diversion, though, Arthur chose himself.
“I chose to better myself…I was under a bridge when a PAD care navigator came and got me and he told me, ‘You’ll never see this bridge again.’ And I haven’t been since.”
Since his initial diversion referral, Arthur has been connected with temporary housing while he works on his wellness goals. The PAD care navigation team practices Housing First, a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness that centers on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into housing and then providing additional supports and services as needed. In short, housing is not a privilege—it is a necessary precondition to recovery.
If you ask Arthur his address, he speaks it with pride and honor. There is a smile that comes across his face, and a security not only within his housing but himself. Through PAD staff, resources, and connections, Arthur has found support, validation, and confidence.
“[PAD] has helped me with a lot. They’ve helped me with appointments. They’re housing me – which I haven’t had a roof over my head in 20 something years – so this is something that makes me feel really good about myself.”
While he works with his care navigator to make his housing placement permanent, Arthur has been able to find medical care for injuries he endured while experiencing homelessness as well as services to support his mental health. As we all have days where our mental health is not the best, those days for Arthur tend to pass a lot smoother with the help of his care navigator and the rest of PAD staff.
“[My care navigator] is my partner! [fingers crossed and raised] If I go through stages, you know, my care navigator is always there open-minded and open-handed to hear and she listens to me. I thank God for her. I thank God for all of these people here.”
What looks like a year on the calendar, has been a journey for Arthur. Housing and holistic support was the foundation for Arthur’s larger commitment to recovery. With six months of sustained recovery under his belt, Arthur says he is ready to retire from the city of Atlanta and return to his hometown.
“I’m getting old and I’m ready to be surrounded by my family. My heart’s desire is to let it go, let it be, and go on to my prosperity.”
Though Atlanta has remained a beautiful city to Arthur regardless of his personal situations, ‘going to the country’ would be success for Arthur, who is more than his recent past. He is a son, a father, a grandad, a dreamer.
“You guys watch out for my gospel album. I play keyboard, I sing, and I’m going to make it big. Watch.”
And between the keyboard and also baking pies from scratch (Arthur loves to cook), he will make sure he makes it big in whatever capacity by continuing to lean on his support system – both at home and within PAD.
“My sisters, my cousins, my son, my grandchildren, my care navigator, this program – is right here beside me. They’ve helped me a lot and help me feel 100% better about myself.”
Arthur’s personal philosophy and faith is also his steering guide to remain on his path towards recovery and healing.
“Everything in this world is centered on balance. You can’t seesaw yourself losing weight and getting off drugs and then pick up weight and start using drugs…but I am blessed and highly favored so I will be okay. Everything I’ve been through, it’s so that others could make it.”
This storytelling project was made possible by DeShonna Johnson-Garay, graduate student in public policy at the University of Georgia and PAD communications & advocacy intern. In summer 2019, DeShonna created a platform for participants and community members to share their perspectives on community safety, recovery, and Atlanta.