Without knowing it at the time, growing up in a gritty section of Albany, New York may have prepared Kenneth for his life ahead. Or maybe it was losing his father to sickle cell anemia at the age of 5. Or maybe it was watching his mother walk out the door on him and his two younger brothers just after his 6th birthday. Maybe it was all of those things combined or none of them. Resourcefulness and resiliency was a must for him as life took its not so gentle twists. And he learned those two things at a very young age.
Kenneth says that Albany is the most beautiful place on earth. One can’t doubt him as these words flow out of his mouth with such truth. His confidence about this statement and the facts he lays forward to prove it, would make most people jump in their car and get themselves up to Albany just to gaze at its spectacular beauty. For Kenneth, Albany is home and home is where beauty resides.
Kenneth left his beloved Albany to follow a work opportunity and landed in Springfield about ten years ago. Things were going well. He had an apartment, new friends, a good job. He liked Springfield – it was no Albany, but he saw glimpses that this place could be a great new home for him. And it was, but sometimes life can take us in an unexpected direction. All the planning in the world can’t prepare one for life’s ups and downs. Shortly after moving to Springfield, Kenneth was laid off from his job. He had a couple of choices to make – go back to Albany or stay and make it work in Springfield. He chose the latter.
His decision to stay in Springfield changed the course of his life, but he shares with the utmost conviction that it was the absolute right decision. He says that he wouldn’t be who he is today if he had gone back home. And he really likes who he is. The decision to stay in Springfield started his path to homelessness. After losing his job, he lost his apartment. The loss of his apartment opened him up to feelings he had never felt before. The trauma of losing his father and being abandoned by his mother at a young age all came to the surface and for the first time in his life he was confronted with his mental health. It was during this time he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and an anxiety related disorder. It was the beginning of a long road of treatment. But during that time of discovery, all he could feel was gratitude. Gratitude for being alive, for finding himself, and for the path that was set before him.
Eventually, Kenneth made his way to Hartford. He was in and out of shelters and sleeping outside. As his mind was healing, he was getting back on his feet and working again full-time. Even though he was fully employed, he could never scrape together enough money to get his own place. Life is expensive. Especially when you are starting from scratch. But, he never gave up. Never felt like it was too much. He pressed on. And the words of Biblical prophet Jeremiah continually rang in his head. The words that his grandmother taught him so many years earlier, “’For surely I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.’”
Kenneth has a future with hope. He recently moved into his very first apartment after years of homelessness. He continues to work full-time while attending college. He loves his new place and is slowly settling in. He’s also made it one of his life goals to speak out against injustice and to share his story so that others who have walked a similar road can get the help that he received. It’s his deep and abiding gratitude and his rock solid faith that gets him out of bed each morning to find his voice for the voiceless and fight the good fight. And he is home and that is the most beautiful place on earth.