Editor’s note: This is Part II of the Catholic Sun’s coverage of ribbon-cutting day for the Catholic Charities of Onondaga County Housing Services Center.
By Tom Maguire
Without asking for it he got a corner bed with a window — “I’m just lucky I guess” — at the new men’s shelter, and he hopes to luck out too with his own place, a family and a job one day.
“I don’t do drugs,” said Price (not his real name; he prefers anonymity), “I don’t do alcohol at all. Zero. I know, growing up, I never was that guy.” What he does like doing is photography, along with puzzles, exploring and going to the library. “Any place that’s quiet, you will find me, you will find me,” he said.
Pleasant despite his statement that he is an awkward talker, Price, a tall 26-year-old, was interviewed on ribbon-cutting day, May 23, at the $13.9M Catholic Charities of Onondaga County Housing Services Center on Erie Boulevard East in Syracuse.
A self-described loner, Price said, “I do have trouble asking for help a lot. So that’s kind of a me thing.”
He is one of the residents in the center’s 80-bed Rev. Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel Dormitory, a bright area with five skylights and 10 pods containing eight beds each. Some residents will be there for one or two nights, and some for a much longer time, said Jessie Butts, CCOC’s program officer for prevention and shelter programs.
Price came to the area with his dad around August 2017 because the rent was too high in New York City, but he found the rent was unaffordable in this area as well. Home became “other people’s places, friends’ places basically.” That went on for something like a year-plus, and he came into the Catholic Charities system in December 2021 and stayed in the former CCOC shelter on South Clinton Street. Then his dad died of cancer last August. “I try to push through, one day at a time,” he said.
He remembers not talking to anybody and not socializing. The best thing that happened to him, Price said, was going to Hire Ground, which says it is a collaborative partnership with Onondaga County. The program “gives panhandlers and the unemployed homeless … an opportunity for change in their lives by offering work experience through day labor and connections to needed support services. …
“In addition to working a five-hour shift and receiving a $50 stipend, Hire Ground feeds them breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the day and provides transportation back to the pickup locations.”
“I actually love picking up trash, it was fun to do,” Price said.
Fond of tree work
He also enjoys tree planting and tree maintenance, and he got to do that for about nine months with Onondaga Earth Corps, which says its mission “is to empower youth to be active participants in creating positive change for themselves, their communities and the environment.”
A caseworker took him to a carpentry class, a “good experience” although it was not his interest. He said he was trying to update his resume. He wants to work and he likes variety. He envisions that new job and that first paycheck — “on my way up out of here, basically.”
Does he have the intensity he needs to succeed?
“Ooof!” he said. “I’m still trying to develop that.” The trick is “getting that monster and just do it like.”
Told about Price, Bishop Douglas J. Lucia, who joined the ribbon-cutting for the Housing Services Center, said, “This place brings hope where maybe hope hasn’t been found or people are searching for hope, they’re searching for a little bit of love.” He hopes the shelter is a place where the men can have faith that “hope and love can be found in the world today.”