By LAURA MCDONOUGH
Special to The Vindicator
Hitting rock bottom meant moving into a homeless shelter for Nicholas Dudley.
The 28-year-old single dad and his 8-year-old son spent about three months in a small, third-floor room with a bed, dresser and window. Their only view was of the street below, where they watched people getting arrested and drama unfolding.
“I had to sign papers that put me on a homeless database. You look my name up, I’m homeless. My son was listed homeless. He went to school like that, homeless,” he laments. “That’s my life. My baby.”
And that, Dudley states, was the inspiration to turn his life around. But finding help, he says, wasn’t easy. He researched housing organizations, but because of his income and housing availability, help wasn’t readily accessible.
“In general, I make $735 a month from my son’s SSI (Supplemental Security Income). They always want you to be like two to three times over what that rental will be,” he explains.
“I called a lot of places, and Beatitude was the only one that ever called me back,” Dudley continues. “I actually called them back to make sure they knew I was a guy.”
Beatitude House, a ministry of the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown since 1991, has traditionally served disadvantaged women and their children, helping them break the cycle of generational poverty through housing, education and other assistance. Recently, Beatitude House changed from offering transitional housing to permanent supportive housing – and now accepts fathers as well.
“Some of our funding sources thought it was fine to have a focus, but thought it was discriminatory to have it exclusively for women. Especially since we wanted to serve parents and children,” explains Sister Patricia McNicholas, senior executive for Beatitude House. “We were happy to make that change, and they were pleased as well.”
Dudley is the first single father accepted into the program.
“People been telling me since I was 20 years old I needed my own place. I was never on my own, so it was hard. I didn’t like it. I didn’t know what to do,” Dudley says.
He and his son have been with the Beatitude House for about four months and are starting to feel comfort and stability in their new life.
“They’re a tremendous help,” Dudley says. “We’re doing great. We got a place that we call home, my son loves school. He’s doing a lot better than he has in the last few years of school,” Dudley continues. “He goes to counseling, I go to counseling ... I got everything I need from nothing.”
Leslie Ostick, a social worker with Beatitude House and Dudley’s caseworker, says the father and son are a great addition to the Beatitude House family.
“We, as an agency, are here to support their goals and their dreams, and just give them the support they need when they need it to reach those goals for their families,” Ostick observes. “Nick and his son are just like every other family we have here ... They’re all hard working and certain circumstances in their lives conspired, and they all hit rock bottom at some point.”
Ostick finds it personally rewarding to watch her clients succeed.
“I get to see my clients reach whatever level of independence they are able to reach and seeing the look on their face when they realize that they’re on their way up,” Ostick said.
Dudley says it’s important that families in difficult situations, such as his, stay motivated.
“You just can’t give up. You gotta keep going until you find something. It’s not just gonna fall in your hands,” he states. “Take as much help as you can get. Focus on you and your kid.”