Years ago, Derrick Lyons was at his lowest. Struggling with being laid off, homelessness, addiction, and strained relationships with his family, Derrick’s mind wandered to
“I’ve never really told anybody this except for my therapist. I wanted to kill myself. The doctor said that’s what happens when you’re on the streets for a long time. You’re by yourself, it was hard.”
Along with this, Derrick found himself in an unbearable cycle of going from shelter to shelter, only to be kicked out, and start over at another. This left walls up in Derrick,
along with an uneasy level of distrust with most people claiming to have Derricks best interest at heart. In 2020, Derrick was connected to our Flexible Housing Pool team. Derrick began to feel more and more like himself. “I felt like a real person again. I became more talkative like I was in the past. I was usually very outgoing. I was doing it again, saying hi to people!” Derrick has been a part of the program for three years now and has grown tremendously in that time.
With the help of case managers, Derrick was able to get a sustainable apartment and finally after years of moving, feel safe and secure. Derrick now finds joy in his life, and is dedicating it to helping others, starting with working towards a degree in Social Work. Due to his involvement in the program, Derrick a became a peer mentor. Peer mentors
help welcome newcomers to the program into their apartments in order to make them feel safe and part of the community. Since November, Derrick has been mentoring, talking on the phone each day with his mentee in order to make him feel at home.
“When I first talked to him, he felt a little uncomfortable, just like I was. He’s like, ‘I don’t know you’. So we just talked and try to get to know each other.” After a while, much like Derrick, he began to open up. “He’s very nice. It’s awesome. He also is in college, he goes to the Art Institute, and likes cooking and photography. He sounds great. I haven’t met him since COVID, you know. But hopefully soon.”
Now Derrick faces new challenges, such as scheduling doctors’ appointments, remembering to wash dishes, and homework. When asked about his apartment,
Derrick was ecstatic. “I love it. I’m talking to neighbors. I actually sleep there. I actually feel safe. I feel relaxed. I feel free. I really do. I feel like I’m a citizen.”