A fastidious man in his 50s, Sam loves reading romantic comedies and keeping his apartment neat and organized. But, when you look in his eyes, you know his life has not always been so orderly.
Sam grew up in a physically abusive home. Sadly, when he was just a teenager, his parents abandoned him. Afraid and alone, Sam lived on the streets and under a bridge, remaining homeless for his entire adult life. Enduring continuous trauma, Sam survived by isolating himself and distrusting others. He tried the shelters but found it difficult to live in the close quarters, so he moved from one unsafe spot to the next. Years ago, a BHCHP street team psychiatrist met Sam and was able to engage with him. Dr. Katie Koh, psychiatrist on our street team, currently cares for Sam. She explains that people who experience the very stark conditions of deep childhood trauma, such as Sam’s, do not learn emotional connections and to trust others, which can lead to serious psychiatric issues.
Once BHCHP connected with Sam, slowly but surely, he began getting primary care, behavioral health care and case management from our Street Team. Then Sam met Beckie Tachick, our BHCHP case manager and Street Team Manager, and over time, he grew to trust her. Beckie describes Sam as an affable and creative person, constantly writing inventive stories and quizzing her on plot lines.
Sam was under the care of our behavioral health and primary care teams while Beckie worked with him to secure housing. He was ultimately able to receive a housing eligibility voucher but, as of last fall, he still wasn’t housed. The holidays were fast approaching; Sam loves seeing the city decorated, but he still dreamed of moving into his own apartment, with his own Christmas tree to accompany it.
On Thanksgiving Day, Beckie was with her family enjoying a delicious meal including home-made pie, but she kept thinking about Sam, alone, in the cold, and sleeping near a train station. The next day, Beckie packed the remaining chocolate chess pie into her backpack and brought it to Sam on her way home from work at BHCHP. Sam was overwhelmed with the beauty of this simple act of kindness.
The holidays, when families and friends celebrate together, can be overwhelming and profoundly lonely for most of our patients experiencing homelessness and out of touch with their loved ones. Beckie’s holiday pie delivery represented so much to Sam, it meant that someone cared about him as a person and wanted to share with him the joy of the season.
In March of this year, Sam and Beckie were finally able to secure him housing.
Now, after spending decades on the streets surviving alone, Sam is safely ensconced in his own home. Having a safe, clean and comfortable home relieves his daily stress of life on the street. Beckie says that Sam is so proud and grateful – he keeps his apartment sparkling clean, cooks his meals and maintains a precise budget. Sam says that someday he would like to be a writer and has taken the first step by enrolling in a computer class at the library that qualifies him for a low-cost laptop. He is eager to have his own Christmas tree this year.
Sam continues to work with Beckie, Dr. Koh and the rest of BHCHP around his health care, including primary care, behavioral health, and Hepatitis C – which is now cured. He is doing his very best to improve his health. His medical team has helped him schedule deferred medical procedures, reduce his substance use, and quit smoking. It’s hard work, and against significant odds, but his team at BHCHP will continue to be there for him.
As Dr. Koh shared, “It’s remarkable, given Sam’s past childhood trauma and resultant psychiatric struggles, that he was able to survive on the streets for as long as he did, and to trust again and transition into housing as well as he has. We have all tried really hard to give Sam what he needs to be healthy and thrive.”
Sustainable and supportive housing is just the beginning of a new life for many of our patients who have experienced homelessness. We continue to treat our patients when they are newly housed, to maintain continuity of care and stability. Disruption in medical and behavioral health services can be destabilizing and lead to even greater health care needs. So, continuity of care, especially for patients who have had so much trauma and loss in their lives, is essential.
Thanks to your generosity, Sam is in a stable place and working towards a healthier future. Your belief in our mission means that Street Team patients like Sam can rely on us for highly skilled, dignified and continuous care.
As we enter our 35th year providing compassionate and dignified healthcare to Boston’s individuals and families experiencing homelessness, we affirm our commitment to never giving up on helping those who are most in need in our city.
Please consider making a gift to BHCHP – your support makes all the difference.