The first few times Daniel was served a meal at Catholic Charities’ Dorothy Day Center, he cried.
“I cried because of the generosity, that there were people willing to do that,” he explained.
Daniel’s fall from grace and independence was bit steeper than most. He was earning six figures working for a large, prominent bank. He had a high stress, high responsibility job; he also had undiagnosed manic depression.
One day, shortly before the recession began in 2007, Daniel lost it on an employee and was thus terminated.
“I went from a six figure job to nothing and that led to divorce which led to homelessness,” he said.
One of the biggest life changes was learning to ask for help. Help, something he could avoid in his previous life, became vital.
“Asking for help is very humbling,” he said. “You wouldn’t think I have any pride left in me.”
Daniel stayed at Dorothy Day Center and Catholic Charities’ Mary Hall before moving out to Catholic Charities’ St. Paul Residence. He has a nice room of his own, but shares kitchen and bath facilities with others. It’s a quiet place away from the homeless culture that became Daniel’s new, radically different normal.
“St. Paul Residence has given me stability,” he said. “If you’re going to recover from homelessness, you have to get out of the environment. I can’t say how powerful getting out of that environment is. It brings back a lot of dignity.”
Slowly, but certainly surely, Daniel is working his way up and out of poverty.
“Without a lot of motivation and a lot of people helping you in the right direction, you’re not going to make it out of homelessness,” he said. “Hundreds of people have supported me. Once I got out of my depression and I got healthy, I decided I was going to take responsibility. I am the one who put me here. No one put me here.”
Daniel estimates he has given more than 2,000 volunteer hours to a handful of nonprofits in the community. He’s been working for a home remodeler he met at his church for the last new months, calling it the “world’s longest job interview.” He’s learning a new trade, so much different than the IT work he did for 33 years. He’s been active in his church and was one of the first members of the choir that practices each week in Catholic Charities’ St. Paul Office.
“One of the things with me, is my life was out of balance. One of the things missing was doing something fun,” he said.
Each week, he gets that fun when he takes the bus to downtown St. Paul to sing with the people who have become his friends. He gets inspiration when singing spirituals with the Dorothy Day Choir project and is having fun again.
But, Daniel points out, he’s not truly happy.
“I won’t be happy until I’m working, supporting myself and giving back to the community,” he said. “Smiling is foreign to me. I would love to get my smile back.”