Jimmy realized he was going to die if he didn’t stop using. Read how Clare Housing helped him on his journey to sobriety and improved health.

Meet Jimmy

Jimmy grew up in Chicago and is no stranger to adversity. He fled an abusive and impoverished home life as a teenager in the 1980’s and had been living on the streets for many years when he discovered he had a brain tumor. He had five surgeries on the tumor in all, with one of the surgeries leaving him severely debilitated. “I woke up from the forth surgery and I couldn’t use my right side. I was paralyzed and blind,” he recalled. “I woke up, and the doctors were like, ‘Hey at least you’re alive.'” And that’s what Jimmy figured, “At least I’m alive.” His doctors were amazed when he regained use of that side of his body five weeks later. “One Sunday morning my stitches started itching so I took my right hand and started scratching them – and that’s how I realized I could move again! I called the nurses and everybody came in. Then I got out of bed and started walking around. The doctors didn’t know what to say.”

Despite this remarkable recovery, Jimmy was not able to overcome the multiple chemical addictions that kept him homeless. He returned to the streets after leaving the hospital, and lacking a permanent address, it took Jimmy’s doctor six months to reach him with the news that he was HIV positive. “I was frightened, because in those days everybody was dying, nobody was living. So I figured, might as well party more… I was only 21 years old and all they had to treat it was AZT.” Jimmy continued, “The doctor just told me I had HIV. He didn’t say “Do you want help?” or “Do you want a counselor?” He told me, we did the check-up, and I left. I suppose he figured I’d be dead soon enough.”

Jimmy describes the following years as the worst time in his life. He says, “I was prostituting myself, and I was using more drugs, sleeping in hallways, just doing anything to survive”. He figured he was going to die anyway. In 2002, one of the men Jimmy met in Chicago asked him to move to Minneapolis where he found himself homeless once again. He was sleeping on a back porch, in hallways, or under cars, attempting to keep warm through bitter Minnesota winters. He returned to prostitution, using the money he made to buy drugs. He was afraid to go to a shelter. “I wasn’t about to go a shelter – which sounds really crazy because I was putting myself in danger anyway.” By 2004, Jimmy’s health was deteriorating. His weight had dropped to a skeletal 135 pounds, and he had persistent skin lesions covering his body.

Jimmy heard about Clare Housing when he was in the Hennepin County Medical Center. “By that point I had already decided enough is enough,” he remembers. “I wanted to get myself clean and stay clean…and I’d do anything to do it”. Jimmy describes the first time he met June Lingle-Haas, a nurse who was helping with applications for Clare Apartments. “I was in the hospital at HCMC when a nice woman named June came to see me. I was a mess, I looked horrible. She told me about Clare Housing. She said, ‘You’re one of the first people applying for this place. But the only way I can send your application through is if you do your 30 days and get yourself clean.’

Jimmy went into a treatment facility in St. Paul and after completing his 30-days he moved into Clare Apartments in fall of 2005 with his partner. Together they worked on creating a home, staying clean and finding a job. He helped begin a weekly Narcotics Anonymous meeting at the apartments. He secured a part-time job and quickly gained the respect of his supervisors for his hard work and dependability. With this came more hours and responsibility at work. At home he enjoyed home-cooked meals, walking his dog and working out in the workout room that he helped to set up at the apartments. His health continued to improve.

Once his life and health stabilized, he decided it was time to move out to make room for someone else who needed his apartment more than him. He told Lee Lewis, Clare Housing’s executive director, “I said, you know, I really love being here,” Jimmy recalls, “but I think it’s time for us to move on so somebody else can get this apartment. And {Lee} told me to think about it. He said, ‘Be sure. Are you ready?’ I said, I’m all the readier I can get.” Jimmy and his partner stayed at Clare Apartments for a year and half before moving into their own place in the neighborhood.

Today, Jimmy has been clean for over two years. He works full-time and has managed his HIV treatment so successfully that he has reduced his current HIV viral load to non-detectable levels. “I’m down to taking two pills, my T-cells are around 900, and my viral load is non-detectable.”

Jimmy smiles broadly, his dark cheeks radiating an impossibly youthful glow. “I always say I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for God, Clare Housing, and myself – and I always put God first and Clare Housing second, because it took both of them to get me where I’m at, and it took myself to get motivated. They said you can have a nice place to stay, you don’t have to have drug dealers running around, and everything they said came true.”