Posted on September 28, 2010
“If I was ever to win the lottery, I’ll donate millions [to Virginia Supportive Housing (VSH)],” Steven Wilson said with a chuckle as he sat in the basement of the Daily Planet on his lunch break. Wilson has been working as a maintenance worker at the Daily Planet, a health services center for the homeless and underprivileged in Richmond, for two and a half years. But several years ago, Wilson never even thought he would become involved with VSH’s services.
Wilson’s struggle began in 2002 when he was sent to jail for close to six years for selling drugs. Upon his release, Wilson did not realize how dire of a state he was really in. He soon found that all of the money saved from his drug-selling days had been spent by family while he was incarcerated, and he was now in need of a place to stay more than ever.
At first, Wilson stayed with his 9-year-old daughter’s mother in Richmond, but their relationship was not a steady one. When she was upset with Wilson, she would kick him out of the house, leaving him with nowhere to go. Eventually she would take him back in, but this cycle was never-ending and detrimental to them both.
Knowing what he had to do to get his life back on track, Wilson found employment with the Daily Planet. But for three to four months during this time, Wilson was forced to spend the nights in his car or occasionally with his mom or other friends around Richmond.
“It was okay as long as I was at work,” Wilson said, as he recalls looking forward to the 5:30 a.m. wake up call which meant he could leave his car. “I found myself volunteering to work on weekends,” he continued, aware that more work meant more money and more time he was kept busy.
One day at work, Wilson overheard a conversation between Daily Planet staff discussing a VSH program and thought it sounded like something he could try. His interest was sparked further when a former co-worker encouraged him to apply, saying that he was a perfect candidate. Wilson took this advice, and it has been almost a year now since Wilson has been housed through VSH.
Wilson said VSH helped him in all aspects of life, from creating a list of goals to budgeting, cooking and car maintenance. “My mom still cooks for me, because I don’t know how to cook,” he laughed, but added that he buys all the food that she prepares for him.
Wilson said the biggest difference in his life since homelessness is the stability his home gives him.
“Without this program, I don’t know what I would’ve did,” he said. He has a place to bring his daughter and 19-year-old son currently attending Norfolk State University. There is no one yelling at him if he comes home too late, and he no longer has to worry about the little things. His home is just that – his.
In today’s economy, Wilson mentioned how a lot of people are living check to check, and many are on the brink of homelessness.
“People think [homeless people] put themselves in bad situations,” Wilson said. “Some of them do, but not everyone’s a bad person. Anything can make you homeless. In life, there’s pressure coming from all angles; it’s easy to make a wrong move. Anyone can.”
He said that everyone needs someone to talk to – to help you figure out what move to make next. “Sometimes you just need someone to say ‘everything’s alright,’” he said, and that is just what VSH did.
“Without y’all around, people are doomed,” Wilson said. He said on the streets, people are “forced to do things [they] don’t really want to do,” but with VSH’s support, one can establish a life away from those negative influences.
Aside from the sense of security that comes with having a roof over his head, Wilson knows the importance of financial stability as well. “[I] always save some money,” he said. “It’s hard when bills are shooting at you, but even if it’s just five dollars [from each check.]”
Wilson said he really appreciates the opportunity VSH gave him, and his currents plans are to “stay out of the streets, maintain [his] job and surround [himself] with positive people.”