Since the coronavirus pandemic hit New York City, Odyssey House staff and clients alike have been stepping up, taking on new responsibilities to keep their colleagues and fellow clients safe and healthy.
Gary, 56, entered Odyssey House last summer, after years of alcohol and opioid abuse proved untenable and he was mandated to treatment by a drug court judge. His introduction to ElderCare was challenging but as he adjusted, he has fully committed. “It grew on me. When you want change, that’s when you realize you have to give up the street life. I want something better for myself and my family.”
Treatment looks a lot different right now than it did when Gary entered treatment last summer. Until recently, his days were mostly filled with groups, one-on-one meetings with counselors, and general maintenance and kitchen work. Now, with social distancing measures in place, the groups have disappeared, leaving only one-on-one meetings. But what remains constant is his commitment to his recovery goals: staying sober, reconnecting with his family, and finding a job.
And while the changes brought by the coronavirus have been tough, he understands the seriousness of the situation. “The counselors give me what I need and I know that I’m safer in here than out there. So I’m keeping the lines of communication open, working out every day, just trying to make the best of it,” he said.
He’s also taken on a leadership role in the program. He has been helping his fellow clients, some of whom are wheelchair-bound, bringing them meals and doing their laundry. He’s restocking food, cleaning up the kitchen, and keeping supplies (e.g., milk, diapers, wipes) for the mothers and children topped up.
Ledescia describes him as “very hands-on and all over the program. He takes initiative – if he sees a problem, he finds a solution. He checks in on staff to make sure they’re okay, checks on the children, just goes above and beyond. He’s very focused, and with this crisis, he has shown himself to be a natural leader.”
Other clients go to him for clarity and advice, including the mothers in the program. He’s uplifting and supportive while pushing them to do better. Some of the clients have had anxiety since coronavirus landed in NYC, and he has been a reassuring presence.
As for Gary, he finds reassurance in the GRCR staff. “I give all of the staff here a pat on the back – they’re putting their own lives on the line. For them to leave their families to come to work, to care for us, is a blessing. They’re on the front lines too.”