Joe Scilia Finds Doors Opening

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Joe is a young man, age 21, born in Derby and raised in Wallingford.  He is articulate, bright, and personable and has a most engaging personality.  Coming from a troubled family, his grandparents raised him from the age of 2, although he did live in Vernon for about five years with his mother and stepfather.  He graduated from Rockville High School in June 2010.  His dream when he graduated was to be an actor, singer and writer. Little did he know then that by the end of the year, he would be homeless.

In school, Joe was an average student.  His life was shaken when both his grandparents (his surrogate parents) died within a year of each other.  He was “thrown for a loop.”  This is when his life began to go downhill.  He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and received treatment, including medications, in the New Haven area. 

At age 18, Joe found himself alone, without a job, without a home.  For a period of time, he lived with his aunt and uncle in Monroe and worked briefly at a McDonald’s.  In late 2010, he began to receive services through the State of Connecticut, Department of Social Services.

Joe says that the key to his success is “never give up.”  This is demonstrated by his doggedness in pursuing admission to Operation Hope’s homeless shelter; he was on the waitlist for about five months, but he did not give up.  Eventually, he was admitted and, despite the fact that the normal length of stay is just a couple of months, he stayed for a year.  Operation Hope staff saw something in Joe that allowed them to “bend the rules” so he that he could get the support and guidance he needed to be successful.  And they were not wrong!  He became connected to Dawn Emerson, who works for New Haven Home Recovery, who has been his case manager for the past nine months.  Dawn has helped Joe navigate the maze of programs and services in the community, including New Haven Home Recovery’s’ Furniture Co-op, job programs through BRS and Bridge House, and all of the local food pantries that are around his residence.

On his own, Joe found a comfortable apartment at Fairbridge Commons (his first apartment), one block away from Bridge House, which, thanks to a referral from Operation Hope staff, became Joe’s second home.  Based on the Fountain House model (focus on consumer-driven recovery), Bridge House is a mecca for people with mental illness like Joe (eventually diagnosed with “Adjustment Disorder”).  At Bridge House, Joe has flourished immensely; he continues to do data entry, answers the phones at the reception desk, does clerical work for the staff members, helps out with the weekly news videos, continues to create the spiritual calendar, and continues to provide assistance and support for the all of the members.

Joe is a member of the Greater Bridgeport Opening Doors consumer advisory council, a self-advocacy group of homeless and formerly homeless adults.

Joe’s interests are those of any young adult:  listening to music, movies, bicycle riding, shopping.

Now, as Joe puts it, “I am ready for a change.”  He will be moving to a new apartment at the end of this month, and, true to his mantra of “never give up,” his high school graduation dream of becoming a singer, writer, actor is not on hold any more, as he has begun looking for work in those fields.

Over the years, Brian has received a lot of support, but none more powerful than from his aunt, who recently disclosed to Brian that she says a prayer every night:  “Thank you Lord for allowing me to sleep well tonight, knowing that Brian is safe and housed and has Bridge House.”

Inspirational Quote from Brian:  “Knowing that you are worth more than you are getting, and that you deserve it.”

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