The Open Shelter

Jerome’s Journey

Jerome is one of our guests who YOUR support has helped for many, many years. Jerome is currently part of our payeeship program which provides third-party money management to help guests get housed and stay housed. Jerome also volunteers every day at our agency and serves as our “Donations Liaison”, helping unload and sort donations that supporters bring to us.

Jerome sat down to talk to us about his journey and what led him to The Open Shelter.


“I have been helping out at The Open Shelter for about nine or ten years. I have been a payee for about the same amount of time. It has been working out pretty well. Everyone at The Open Shelter has been a big help. Being here keeps me busy. It keeps me out of trouble. It keeps me from doing drugs or alcohol. It gives me something to do. It gives me a chance to give back to others. When I was homeless, The Open Shelter helped me out. So it gives me a chance to help.”

“I was homeless for about three years. I was smoking weed and drinking every day, wasting money. When I started volunteering at The Open Shelter, I changed because I have something to do instead of just laying around the house and doing nothing. It helped me out a lot.”

“I am from Atlanta. I grew up there. I came up here when I was 22 or 23 years old, about 1972 or ’73. I came to Columbus to visit my first cousin. My car broke down so I got a job to get my car worked on. By the time I got a job, they towed my car. I just have been up here ever since.”

“I had a good family growing up in Atlanta. I didn’t have a dad in my life. So my mother was like my father and my mom. I had three brothers older than me. They kept me in line. Growing up I wanted to play football. Everybody in my family participated in sports, including my mom. My mother ran track. One brother played football, the other two also played sports. I have one brother who moved to California in 1973 and I haven’t heard from him since. He is the only brother I have who may be still alive. My mom and other two brothers have passed.”

“I was homeless for three years here in Columbus. I was still using, weed, alcohol and a little cocaine. It was a struggle trying to find a place to sleep every night. I slept in abandoned apartments, on the streets, on people’s porches. It was hard. I realized, ‘I can’t be out here in the winter time’. The shelter helped me out with housing and I have been doing good ever since.”

“I became clean. I did it on my own. I kept staying busy. As long as I am busy, I can’t spend my money. That’s why I became a payee at The Open Shelter. Sheli (Mathias, our Director) helps me control my money instead of me controlling it. If I control it, I know my triggers. That’s why I became part of the payee program. It really helps me save money. I got a little money stashed back for the long run.”

“I asked Solomon (Dean, our Deputy Director of Day Services) if I could volunteer here and he said ‘Yes, but you have to be on time, be here every day’. I said I could do that! So ever since then, I have been volunteering. It’s really fun. I get to meet a lot of people and talk to a lot of people. It is like being part of the family. Kathy Jackson, who is one of our regular donors, has become a special friend along with Molly and Jill, their husbands, and the kids from Seeds of Caring.”

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