"She pulled me out of the gutter. If it wasn’t for her I would probably be in hospital. But she pulled me out and I’m so glad she came into my life,” says Billie Graham. He pauses and tries to hold back tears before continuing. “She has been a godsend, she really has. There should be more people like her.”

Step in the Right Direction
Sixty-year-old Billie is referring to one of The Salvation Army’s Housing Response Team case workers. Natasha met Billie after he was referred to the program by a member of Housing Help, an organization that assists people on low incomes to find permanent housing.

Billie has been living in an Ottawa rooming house he used to work at before he had as heart attack, which he believes was brought on by stress. With a number of health issues, Billie was unable to maintain his position as superintendent.

This isn’t the first time Billie has had to ask for help. He was homeless for a year back in 2011 before working at the rooming house, and he’s spent some time in shelters.

“I had it in my head that it was just going to be the same old thing I had experienced before, but then that’s when I met my case worker, Natasha, at The Salvation Army,” says Billie. “She helped me get all the proper identification I needed. She came to my doctor’s appointments with me and helped me get on the provincial disability support program, which is great. Big time!

“I’m still living in a rooming house right now, but Natasha is helping me work on finding housing. That would be the biggest step for me.”

Toward Independence
Billie says when new tenants arrive at the rooming house and he can see they are struggling, he often recommends they visit The Salvation Army Housing Response Team for help.

“A lot of people out there don’t know about this program so that’s what I do with the new tenants where I live and it’s because of Natasha. That’s why I do it,” Billie continues. “I tell them I have a good case worker and, if Natasha can’t do it, she’ll get someone else that can help.” Billie enjoys helping others because he knows what it’s like to be struggling.

“Whenever we get new tenants, I try to help them as much as I can. Like when we have tenants move out, a lot of them leave stuff behind. So I keep it in storage and then when new people come in and they don’t have something, I offer it to them.”

Billie is now facing a new challenge as he has recently learned that he is going blind.

“I was upset because everything is going good for me right now. I don’t want to go back six steps. I want to go forward. So I am trying not to let this bother me,” he says.

“Natasha told me, ‘We will set you up with all the things that you will need to live and live well. Those will be your next goals—getting an apartment but also getting connected with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind so that you are fully capable and still have all your independence. That’s going to be our next feat.’

“The staff at The Salvation Army has been good to me. It’s a great organization,” Billie concludes. “Being connected to the Housing Response Team is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

Leave a Comment