You could possibly point him out for his relaxed demeanor or his distinct voice, but you will most certainly be able to recognize Harold by his blue glasses – if he hasn’t accidentally left them on a table again like the office gag goes.
Harold came to PAD during a time he was experiencing homelessness. He had spent about four years on-and-off camping underneath a bridge – the specific location to which he will give you with no shame. One day he had been approached by an APD officer who told him how PAD could help him get a better footing in life.
“I thought they were trying to pull a wool over my eyes. You mean someone is going to give housing, food, and help for nothing?”
And as promised, Harold has found housing, identification, and glasses that not only improve his eyesight but also serve as his trademark around the office.
There is still a hint of disbelief in Harold’s voice when he mentions PAD though, just because of his past unsuccessful experiences with service providers. Seeing the openness and authenticity of PAD staff, Harold’s become more receptive to help from agencies and is more hopeful of change.
“The last six months have been the best six months I’ve had in a long time. PAD is like a family and I can come here and know I’m coming into a place of understanding and opportunity. And they give you resources to help you better yourself which is nice. Because when I was homeless, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to and couldn’t help myself – I didn’t have the resources.”
One large way PAD has helped Harold is by connecting him with resources for housing. He is currently in the process of obtaining permanent housing and the efforts would not have been as easy or accessible if it weren’t for Harold’s work with the care navigation team.
“PAD should be expanded so that people could walk in. Like a center where people can walk in openly versus having to be arrested. Instead of ‘Pre-Arrest’ it should be a…‘Pre-Position’ to helping yourself. At least that’s what it did for me.”
Harold’s personal recipe for success is similar to other PAD participants – self-determination, self-compassion, and a mindful recognition of where they have been to get to where they are going. For Harold specifically, it is his ability to adapt to any situation with ease and his youthful curiosity to learn that foretells his success.
He’s 63, but his presence feels at least half of that. From how he discusses movies he’s found to be “excellent films” to reminiscing on his 18-year career as a pathologist, you can tell Harold values learning; you can tell just how much he values living; and you can tell just how much he’ll never give up.
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.