Paul McIntosh is about to be evicted from his apartment, even though he has never been late on rent. This is utterly devastating news for Paul because he’s experienced homelessness in the past. He’s unsure how he’ll manage his eviction given his mental and physical health conditions, yet he’s sure that with his faith and optimism, he’ll endure.
Hailing from Stamping Ground, Kentucky, Paul is the youngest of five siblings and a welder by trade. He moved around a lot as a kid and didn’t have much of a stable housing environment in his childhood. About four years ago, after losing both his parents, one of his brothers, and two beloved pets, Paul fell into a depression and stopped working. He considers this to be the onset of his manic depression. He’s also a diabetic, and his physical condition worsened with the decline of his mental health.
Despite that, Paul prides himself on his hardworking personality. He’s worked his whole life, so it was a big step for him when he filed for a disability claim. “I’d be at work, under pressure, and I’d run to the bathroom and just cry. It made it hard for me to keep a job,” he shared.Once he found himself unemployed, he decided to come to Lexington.
His arrival in Lexington marked his first experience with homelessness. For the past four years, he’s been on and off the streets, and has also stayed in a few shelters from time to time. Paul has also struggled with his ability to find work that he finds meaningful. He panhandles but finds it humiliating. He’s worked at fast food chains too, but he doesn’t find this satisfying considering his experience working in factories, running a small business, and welding. Paul has also been incarcerated twice since he’s been in Lexington. He’s a small man with a passive and soft-spoken nature, so upon his second arrest he immediately requested solitary confinement, where he spent much of his one-year sentence in isolation. After his release, he found an apartment, and has been securely housed there until recently, when his landlord told him he was going to be evicted for reasons that are not entirely clear to Paul. “At the end of this month, I’m going to be homeless again. And I’ve worked so hard, I’ve kept my apartment clean, I’ve been ahead on my rent so I wouldn’t be homeless. If I have to go back on the streets, it’s going to be hard on me. I don’t think I can do it this time.”
Paul is afraid of facing homelessness again because he knows first-hand how dangerous it is to be without shelter. He’s already been robbed once, and he knows that his vulnerability is going to increase once again if he must live without housing. Even though he made friends in the Lexington community, that doesn’t fully calm his anxieties or give him the protection he seeks. “I’m just scared to death, man. I just hope nothing bad happens. Luckily there’s more friendly people than not,” he said. Although Paul’s nervousness is clear, he’s also optimistic that he can turn this situation around. He’s found a well-paying and reliable job he’s about to start, “but it’s so hard to work when you’re lying on the streets.” His sister and best friend also live in Lexington, and although he doesn’t like to ask for help, he knows that, at the end of the day, he can depend on them.
For Paul, experiencing homelessness is not just about safety but about his pride. When asked about common misconceptions about homelessness, Paul remarked, “A lot of people are prejudiced against [those who experience homelessness]. They don’t understand it. They don’t understand that some of these people have been hard workers their whole lives. I’ve met people out here who have a lot of skills and done incredible things, but you’d never see it, they just look down on us. They don’t realize what it’s like to be homeless.”
Security is important to Paul, and he’s reluctant to have to repeat the cycle of insecurity he’s been caught in since his childhood. “I just want someplace to put my possessions. I’ve had to start over so many times, lose everything, start over again, even as a kid. And here I am again.” He’s considered checking himself into a local psychiatric hospital, but he’s concerned that even this route might cause him to lose his belongings and start over again. Lex End Homelessness strives to not only keep people like Paul housed, but to help folks like Paul come out of dire circumstances and create a lasting and secure home. You can get involved with Lex End Homelessness by joining the Continuum of Care, donating to the Lex End Homelessness campaign, or by following us on social media @lexendhomelessness.