Imagine living in an apartment with two windows which were constantly covered with blinds, no kitchen, a small bathroom, all the size of a walk-in bedroom closet. Most people would think this impossible in Ulster County, New York. But it was the life I was living ten years ago. I used to dread my bike ride home from the local fast food restaurant, to sleep on my uncomfortable futon, and to wake up hungry, depressed and alone in the dark.
I got stuck in this living situation after leaving home at a very early age. Forced to leave an abusive family, after getting my ass beat and then locked out of the house one too many times, I decided that sleeping on whatever couch I could find was much better. In my opinion, this is the untold story of homelessness. Many people believe that the homeless are drug abusers who are too lazy to get and keep a job. In many cases, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many young people are forced to leave home because living on a couch is better than being abused.
Now flash-forward ten years, and I find myself working an internship for RUPCO, a nonprofit organization that helps provide affordable housing in the region. RUPCO believes that housing is a critical component of improving communities and providing people with better lives. This bedrock of comfortable, safe and affordable living is what drives positive impacts throughout a person’s entire life.
A few weeks ago, I saw the difference that RUPCO makes first hand while on a tour of an affordable housing project on Cornell Street in Kingston, called The Lace Mill. I was standing in one of the smaller units in the building, but it didn’t feel small at all. This beautiful studio apartment has seven 12-foot windows, a full kitchen, and all the space that a single person would ever need. The most impressive part was that it was similar in price for what I was paying to live in a closet.
From that moment in time forward, I knew that RUPCO was making a difference and I was glad to be a part of it. Even though I am the part-time intern, I realize that being part of a company like this is a very fulfilling career path and I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I encourage those who can, to volunteer or donate to a nonprofit like RUPCO; they deserve all the help that they can get. From this experience, I’m continuing to learn why “Home Matters.”
Dan Hanson is RUPCO’s Communications Assistant and a student at SUNY-New Paltz.