The PourHouse assists individuals experiencing homelessness in overcoming barriers to housing, treatment, and healthcare. Through community-style street outreach and a unique peer advocacy approach they help people define and achieve their goals and re-establish vision for their lives.
As a great example of the dedication of the Founder & Executive Director, Andrea De Mink, below is a Facebook post that she added recently:
I’ve been friends with Marvin for over 10 years now.
Marvin. The mystery.
Always gruff when he came to the van…wanting specific brands of hygiene items – he was obsessed with hygiene. He had to sort through EVERY bin…look at EVERY bottle of lotion. EVERY shirt. Choosing and trading, often only to return later and throw it in the van window exclaiming it “wouldn’t work”. He would look at his reflection in the glass while I was in the van and would smear lotion and conditioner all over his hair and his face – oblivious to someone on the other side. He could be exhausting to deal with but we continued our routine day in and day out….month after month, year after year.
He said he was in his 60’s but looked so much younger. He told me it was because he liked face cream. He claimed to be a veteran. He was hard to hear and understand and really hard to deal with when he was angry. He always barked out orders and was impossible to reason with.
My goal in life was to house Marvin before one of us died. Sometimes vague and lofty goals like that are all you have with someone who struggles so greatly with mental health barriers.
Nothing about Marvin’s story made sense to me and I love a good mystery so over the years I started to dig….and dig….felt like I was really digging with a teaspoon and getting nowhere. Finally…the story started to unfold.
Marvin was not really Marvin. Because of his mental health barriers, he truly believed he was someone else. Someone who was 15 years older than he really is…someone with a completely different name and life. The one true part of his story was that is a veteran. I found an amazing VA housing case manager who went to heroic lengths to try to engage Marvin so we could house him. He would make daily trips to her office and she would find him cleaning up in her bathroom and squirting her Sam’s club sized hand sanitizer in his ears. She was up for a good adventure and always rose to the occasion. Despite her best efforts, she was unable to house him because the federal government isn’t too keen on housing people in veteran programs who don’t identify with their true name, DOB and SS number.
A little over a year ago, Marvin was arrested for criminal trespassing and went to jail. When he was in there, I went to visit him to try to get him to sign a housing application with me. He told me that he would think about it and thought he might do it when he got out…but “not today”. Throughout his (what should have been brief) court proceedings, he was deemed incompetent and sent to the State Hospital to restore competency. He emerged again a few weeks ago.
After being released, Marvin sought out care at the hospital to continue his medication he was being given while locked up. When I heard this, I was floored that he had the insight and initiative to seek assistance for his mental health needs.
On Wednesday, I was in the library downtown and went up to the 5th floor to look for someone. There was Marvin. I went up and sat beside him and said hi. He looked at me and smiled. He said “Hi Andrea, how are you?”. He told me what he had done that day. He told me how he was feeling. He asked what I was doing. He asked if Chad and I had children. He asked how old my daughter was. He told me he was thirsty and I got him some snacks and bottles of water from the outreach room. I also brought him a new tube of Eucerin (which he loves) and he thanked me profusely and put it on a scratch he had on his face. He was so sweet and bright. I will never forget his face or his eyes while we talked.
I got on the elevator and started to cry. I have cried since Wednesday.
There was this person trapped inside him for all of these years. This is who he really is. This is who was trying to connect through the confusion and the illness…doing the best he could in his circumstances.
Marvin now has a housing application completed and will soon have a place of his own. He will always be a reminder to me of why you never give up on someone.
The streets are full of gold that is hidden in the many friends that we meet. Underneath all of the brokenness are so many wonderful people who just want to be respected and given opportunities for a fresh start in their lives.