Art brings hope, healing for ShelterCare resident

When asked about his future, Todd P. is all smiles. “I’m working on getting a loan to start my own art business,” he says. “[My counselor/advocate] is helping me identify potential lenders.”

Since finding stable housing with ShelterCare three years ago, Todd has blossomed as an artist and maintained his sobriety—two things he struggled to do when he was living on the streets.

Todd was homeless for most of his adult life. He’s worked as a farmer, a fisher, and a mechanic, among other jobs. Though he always dabbled in art, he never thought it was something he could pursue as a career. And, he admits, his drinking was a big part of the problem. “That’s what I was, mainly, a drinker.”

Born in New York, Todd also lived and worked in New England for a bit before moving to Eugene, which has been his home for the last 20 years. During that time, Todd earned a reputation for negative behaviors such as starting fights, and he was banned from many establishments.

Then, a few years, ago, Todd became friends with a woman whose son is a ShelterCare resident. She recognized Todd’s negative behaviors as similar to those of her son’s before he got help managing his mental illness. She encouraged Todd to apply for ShelterCare services. Soon after, Todd was accepted into the Supported Housing program, which provides housing and support services for adults with severe and persistent mental illness.

Now 52, Todd says his experience with ShelterCare has been “life-changing” and that his sobriety went hand-in-hand with obtaining housing and learning to understand and manage his mental illness. He also credits his ShelterCare counselor, as well as art, for giving him the tools to begin healing psychological wounds from a difficult childhood.

“Art has been good therapy for me. I’d love to help other people with art… to be able to do [art] all day long with people like me.”

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