Lonely No More
Judy, a veteran, will never forget when she first arrived at Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-GNY) after years of living on the street and in and out of dormitory-style shelters. For the first time in a long time, she felt at ease, having a clean and safe place to lay her head at night—a place that was all her own.
As a young woman, Judy attended college and earned a degree in Psychology. She began working as a caseworker helping to connect people in need with government services—much like the case managers at VOA-GNY. Although she loved her job and derived from it a great sense of personal satisfaction, she left in the 1970s to join the U.S. Navy because she wanted to serve her country.
But in 1980, due to mental health issues, Judy’s patriotic service came to end and she was honorably discharged. She moved in with her parents, where she lived happily for many years until their passing. Burdened not only with feelings of grief at the loss of her mother and father, Judy had to grapple with the loss of her home too. With no other family to call on, and no steady job because of her mental health challenges, Judy became homeless.
A sensitive and artistic soul, Judy found the harsh and unpredictable reality of life on the street especially difficult. She recalled her experience as a young girl with fondness, happily playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on the piano in her parents’ apartment. She longed for the stability and warmth of a home rather than the dismal, and often times chaotic, existence on the street.
Fortunately, life began to turn around for Judy when she reconnected with a niece who helped get her into a temporary shelter and then into East 12th Street residence—one of VOA-GNY’s permanent supportive housing residences for older adults.
While the transition took some adjustment, the staff at East 12th Street were attentive to Judy’s needs, especially those related to her mental health, and made sure she got the right assistance from our extensive network of community partners.
Today, at 77 years old, Judy is thriving.
In addition to the privacy that she now delights in—she finally has a room of her own—she enjoys sharing healthy meals with other residents in the common area and taking part in the activities that are offered, like a reading group and dance lessons. She also values the support of VOA-GNY staff. She is particularly thankful to her social worker, Ms. Harden, who checked on her every day during the pandemic to make sure she was alright. “It meant a lot that someone cared that much,” Judy says.
Judy looks forward to participating in more group activities now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted, but more than anything else, she says the most wonderful part of living at East 12th Street is, “I’m not lonely anymore.”