According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and our Hawaii Pathways Project focuses on serving the chronically homeless population who also suffer from chronic substance abuse. This project utilizes the Pathways to Housing Model, including housing the homeless with little-to-no barriers to entry. This month, in celebration of Alcohol Awareness, we highlight Sims, a Pathways consumer who continues to work hard to maintain his sobriety while making positive strides in his life.
The Pathways team met Sims at Kalihi-Palama Health Center, one of our community partners, in 2014, and it quickly became apparent he was in need of our services and support. During the interview Sims was guarded, but he detailed his journey from childhood to addiction to incarceration and, eventually, homelessness.
After being released from Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC) and a weeklong stay at a hotel, caring for both himself and his partner, Sims lived along the Kapalama Canal for about three years. Once he became involved with his partner, Sims felt obligated and committed to her. He often found food and water for her but went hungry and thirsty himself.
During meetings with the Pathways team, which is composed of staff from Helping Hands Hawaii and Catholic Charities Hawaii, Sims discussed his family at length, often trailing off lost in thought as if he was remembering better times when he was involved in his children’s lives. While Sims has a relationship with his oldest son and his family (including a grandson!) and sees them at least weekly, he would like to reconnect with his other children as well. They are now adults and, according to Sims, “must have family of they own now.”
It took Sims three months to transition from the banks of Kapalama Canal to his own apartment, and during this time he worked with the Pathways team to engage in face-to-face meetings, therapy, medication management with the team psychiatrist, case management and one-on-one work with a Hawaii Certified Peer Specialist. After moving in, he stayed home for a few days, walking around the apartment and wondering when someone would tell him it was all a cruel joke. The furnishings were sparse, but after the initial shock wore off, Sims reported feeling more settled than he had in years.
Today Sims remains clean from drug and alcohol use and has been housed in his own apartment for one year. He continues to meet with his therapist and to work on symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which he developed as a result of trauma he suffered during his incarceration. He now volunteers at a local community center where they are understanding of his fear of being around too many people and treat him with patience and respect. In the future, Sims would like to work full time again.
Sims is a testament to utilizing the help of organizations and professionals in support of client-centered goals. He is a shining example of how someone can triumph over adversities in life, like alcohol abuse, drugs, incarceration and homelessness. We celebrate Sims and April as Alcohol Awareness Month in hopes that they will inspire others to seek the help they need to live healthy, substance-free lives.