"...give yourself a chance, serve God and have faith."
Pamela Wyatt - Former Garret House Client
“We’re not all bad people. We all have a good heart.” That’s how Mr. Chuck McQueen describes himself and fellow residents at Volunteers of America Delaware Valley’s Eleanor Corbett House in Glassboro, NJ. Five minutes with Chuck would convince anyone his statement is the truth. Chuck is a man who fell onto hard times but finds strength in his family, his daughter Lilly. His face lights up at the mention of his daughter’s name. He wakes up at 5:30 every morning to take a bus to his manual labor job because that’s what he has to do to support his daughter. He isn’t any different from anyone else. He just happens to be homeless. Chuck came to Eleanor Corbett House, a 54-bed facility that houses families and individuals, nine months ago after making self-admitted mistakes that left him with no where else to go. At the time, he was the only father in a facility filled with mothers and children, a fact he doesn’t find relevant. He says, “I know what it is like to be a mother and all the women here know what its like to be a father.” Although, he admits it’s nice for 10-year-old Lilly to have so many women willing to talk to her when she needs a mother’s advice. Chuck is thankful for the support he receives from the staff and other residents. He says, “I’ll bend over backwards for them as far as they bend for me.” They all look out for each other and worry about each child as if they were their own. Chuck thought he and Lilly were going to have to go through this struggle alone but quickly realized the staff and other resident at Eleanor Corbett House would help them as much as they could.
Pamela Wyatt came to Volunteers of America Delaware Valley's Garrett House after time spent in jail on a drug charge. Her success comes from leaving a better person than when she arrived or as she puts it, "I left willing to do the right thing; willing to change my life." Pamela is originally from Atlantic City. And, while her mother was also an addict, Pamela maintains that she was always there for her and that her childhood was a good one. Although in talking to her, it's easy to see that her life is focused squarely on the future and she doesn't seem to have much interest in talking about the past. After leaving Garrett House she returned to Atlantic City to her support system of her children, ranging in age from 13- 24, and her sisters. She went into counseling and put in a lot of applications. Within four months she was working two jobs and within six months she had her own apartment. "The key for me was getting motivated and not getting bored." Now she wants to help women and children who may be heading down the same path as she once was. "My advice to other women is to give yourself a chance; serve a God and have faith." She is grateful for her time spent at Garrett House and the doors that were opened there for her. "The staff members were willing to help me and didn't make me feel like less." She is adament that women need to be more powerful and be good examples for their children, which is exactly what she is doing now. "I just want to give back what I took away from the community
Jamie Moore came to ISSI, a residential program for the mentally ill, in 2010 after a brief stay at Norristown State Hospital. He says the transition was easy because the “people are wonderful. The staff is considerate and we enjoy being around each other.” He utilized the staff from the beginning and immediately began working towards improving himself. After entering ISSI, Jamie began attending a day program Monday through Friday where he learns math, French, Spanish and computer training. He works on other life skills with the staff at ISSI. He wants others struggling with mental illness to know that “there’s help out there when you need it.” Jamie was confident about moving out because of these resources. He will tell you, the best way to help people coping with mental illness is to give them the resources they need to keep their lives on track so that they can remain independent.. Three years after entering ISSI, Jamie moved into an apartment with a friend coping with a similar illness. “I understand I have a mental illness but I’m prepared to accept the challenges,” Jamie says about moving out. He continues to go to his day program and is looking for a part-time job. Jamie misses the staff and other residents at ISSI but is excited he accomplished his goal. “Volunteers of America Delaware Valley stands by their words. They want you to be independent,” says Jamie.
He saw his brother go to Vietnam and then knew it was his turn. Michael Decicco was enlisted in the National Guard from 1976 through 1982. He says that the experience made a man out of him early and that it taught him how to better listen to authority even though he had been pretty independent his whole life. He feels a kinship with other veterans and has a respect for anyone who has worn a uniform. “When I hear the Star Spangled Banner, I get chills. I am an American.” His independent spirit led him to buy a pizza restaurant after his honorable discharge, which he owned for 25 years. Self employment suited him. Unfortunately Michael suffered from anxiety, depression and back pain and was prescribed a lot of medication. Limitless prescriptions combined with an entrepreneurial spirit led to bad decision making and to a place this one-time business owner never thought he would be, in jail for 18 months. “The money came easy,” he says. “It began slowly then the money was hard to resist.” He says he has changed in part because he knows he was in a place he didn’t want to be. Now he goes to Volunteers of America Delaware Valley Community Resource Center during his parole while he looks for work. He says he really likes the people there and that the counselors are very understanding. “There are just a lot of very, very good people here.” He will continue to go to CRC until he can produce two paystubs. And where is he looking for work? Back in the pizza business. “It’s what I know.” Right now he knows he needs to work but is most interested in keeping himself busy and making sure he doesn’t go down the wrong road again. When asked, he is hesitant to give advice to other people coming in the program, since he remembers how much he didn’t like being told what to do. “People have to figure it out for themselves. I guess it’s just about what you want out of life.”