On the Minneapolis streets, Pat goes by the name Einstein.
“I’d like to think it’s for my intelligence and not just my hair,” he joked while sitting in his home at Catholic Charities’ Higher Ground Residence in Minneapolis which provides permanent, supportive housing to 85 single adults.
Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Pat went from working 70 hours a week to 15.
“The business was going under, but my boss took it (the attacks) as an excuse to lay off 180 people,” he said.
The 40-hour job went away, but he thought he would be okay with his second job, a motorcycle shop he had worked at for more than 25 years, but those hours were reduced from 30 hours to just 15.
“Try to afford an apartment on 15 hours a week. You can’t do it,” he said.
Looking around, Pat says homelessness, including his, is never caused by lack of money alone. Mental illness, chemical dependency and felony convictions are contributors for most, he says, though his record is felony-free.
While he had been living beneath his means in an efficiency apartment, Pat was evicted when the money ran out. He first sought shelter at Higher Ground Minneapolis’ predecessor, Catholic Charities’ Secure Waiting.
Pat slept on those floors for about five years before fleeing to Florida, thinking maybe he would find a better life. He soon returned and came to the shelter at Higher Ground Minneapolis when it opened in 2012. Compared to Secure Waiting, he said the shelter felt like a motel.
Finding stability, community
After nearly two years in the shelter at Higher Ground Minneapolis, Pat moved to his home on the third floor. He has reached the age to collect Social Security and pays 30 percent of his check for rent each month. In his home, he is able to watch his favorite show, “Jeopardy” twice each day. He has found stability and attends therapy sessions three to four times monthly. At 10 p.m. each night, he goes down to the shelter and volunteers his time washing towels and sheets in the laundry room.
“You do things because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “The shelter was there when I needed it and it’s my turn to give back.”
He’s also worked with his case manager Christine Bridgeman to bring his third floor neighbors together. He prepared a spaghetti dinner for all, with the caveat the meal must be eaten in the lounge.
“People talk when they eat,” he said with a wry smile. “Next up is tator tot hotdish.”
While Pat has no degree, he has attended University of St. Thomas, University of Minnesota and Fond Du Lac Tribal Community College, among others. He both served in the US Army and protested the Vietnam War in Washington D.C. He is proud to have spent 65 of his 67 years living in the great state of Minnesota.
“I am a unique individual who has gone through an interesting life,” he said. “There have been so many high points and so many low points. That’s why I am proud to be me. All in all, I was myself. You’re dealt a hand in poker. You play the hand you’ve got. Don’t wish for a hand you didn’t get.”