Kenneth’s Story

Kenneth has been a part of our SSI Payeeship Program for nearly six years. This program assists homeless and marginally housed persons receive and manage entitlements. Kenneth shared with us what led him to The Open Shelter and to our Payeeship Program.

“I had episodes in my life. I had my ups and downs. I had my troubles. I was very hard headed, got myself into situations I couldn’t get out of. I had the housing. I had the money. Slowly but surely, I started neglecting me and everything around me. Things started going downhill. The help was still there. People came to help me and I am begging them to stop. It got out of hand. I ended up in jail and institutions. I had issues with my family, my kids. Then my mother passed about two years ago and I felt sorrow. I tried to find solace somewhere else instead of in the help that was offered to me. I thought I could do it by myself. I was always a smart guy but somewhere along the line, I missed something.”

“After my mother passed, people had to come and find me because I was out there doing crazy stuff. I was druggin’ and pluggin’. I was on crack cocaine. I started smoking crack in 1984. I just recently turned 60. In between though, I had success stories. It might have been because of the lifestyle I grew up in. I grew up in a family of drugs, alcohol and pimps. I thought that was the way you were supposed to live. That’s all I saw. I have lived in Columbus all of my life. I played basketball at Franklin Junior High School, led them to two state championships. Went to Columbus East High. I grew up playing ball with Granville Waiters”.


“I grew up poor, but never knew I was poor. Awhile ago, I felt sorry for myself to where I wanted to die. I didn’t want to be here anymore. I felt I let my family down, my kids down and nobody wanted me in their life. My family knew I was out on the streets but they wanted me to come to them. I took drugs and alcohol wherever I had it. I was valedictorian of my high school. I am in a chapter of the National Honor Society. I was one of the first students of Upward Bound. It was a program where high school students took college courses in the summertime. When I was little, they thought something was wrong with me. I was smart. I didn’t look at the education part of it, I was having fun.”

“I ended up getting a scholarship to Ohio University.  I played basketball for one year but got kicked out for smoking marijuana on campus.  This is where my life turned.  I couldn’t go home and tell my mom and dad.  I had lost my scholarship.  So I enlisted into the Army.  When I went into the Army, it changed my life.  I knew discipline but not to the effect they did.  I got a few awards there. I did four years in the Army.  I got the highest awards you could get in peace time.  President Reagan put a medal around my neck.  It was during a peace keeping mission in Egypt after Anwar Sadat was assassinated.  I then went into the Naval Reserves.  I got sent to Wright Patt.”


“My life took another turn because I wasn’t paying attention.  When I smoked my first piece of crack, I got hooked.  The very first day.  From there, I went to alcohol.  It was something I needed every day.  It was a feeling that took over my body.  Then I got distracted by women. Everything felt like it became easy but it was the drugs. I was robbing, stealing, conniving, sneaky.  I was no good around you or anybody else.  If you blinked, I got you.  When it was all said and done, that particular day, I felt bad.  But for some crazy ass reason, I kept doing it.”

“By the grace of God, through the VA and Ms. Sheli (Mathias, our Director who oversees the Payeeship Program), who I got in touch with through a friend of mine at the VA.  Believe me, Sheli & I butted heads a few times.  I threatened to quit the program a few times.  But one thing I can say about Ms. Sheli, she never, never, never gave up on me.  She was one of the few people who made me stand up on my own two feet and make the right decisions. Sheli put me in my place.  When things weren’t going my way, I took what she said and rolled with it.  About two years ago, I joined a place called Parkside in Gahanna.  I did about six months there.  After that, I went to a place called The Lighthouse.  Right now, I am close to 300 complete days clean at 60 years old; even of cigarettes.  It feels so good.  I changed my diet.  I changed everything about my life.  I will never forget the people who helped me get where I am at.”

“Ms. Sheli, The Open Shelter, The VA.  The people at VA still get in touch with Sheli.  Right now I am staying at Faith Mission.  In the next few weeks I am moving to a support house.  I am going to continue to grow and live.  Last year, I only weighed 165 pounds.  Now I weigh 240. Sheli sees good.  I am going to keep on going.  I can’t look back.  I got my family back.  I got my kids back.  I didn’t do it by myself.  At one time, I couldn’t stand none of you all (laughing).  The gift I got right now though is because of the help from the VA, my sponsor and The Open Shelter.”