“Everything I’m doing is allowing me to be healthier in the future.”

Tracy reached a low point last spring with regard to his mental and physical health. Battling depression, anxiety, substance use, and a misdiagnosis for cancer, Tracy felt empty and done. He was treated at the hospital and, after a short stay at another provider, found himself a coveted space at PRC’s Odyssey House.

In this beautiful Victorian home that can accommodate up to ten adults with 24-hour staffing, Tracy has thrived in an unusually short period of time. He arrived struggling with depression and anxiety along with substance use issues. He felt like he was in chaos. Six months into his stay, Tracy shares, “I’ve been able to find a new perspective on things I appreciate about myself. I now have a desire to like myself. I’m able to explore getting to where I want to be, as opposed to where others expect me to be, and how I should live my life. It’s been a great opportunity to rediscover myself.”

Odyssey residents set personal goals upon arrival. Tracy’s goals included developing and building healthy relationships. The social setting of the house provides lots of learning opportunities, including interacting with others you wouldn’t have otherwise and contributing in ways that work for both yourself and others. Residents engage in group sessions and take turns with household duties such as cooking meals. This has helped Tracy to be more conscientious with others and also to step outside his comfort zone.

Odyssey House was created 30 years ago as a truly unique permanent housing residential facility focusing on African-American adults who were formerly institutionalized for extensive periods of time, or who lived on the street for many years. Its goal is to assist clients in developing independent living skills. It is the only such program in the City of San Francisco.

The program’s supportive services are personalized to allow residents to take on more responsibility and make progress toward their goals as their condition improves. Tracy is getting better at managing his physical health concerns and other symptoms. This includes some very specific actions like obtaining glasses and some less so, like Tracy feeling more comfortable in his own skin, an accomplishment aided by being surrounded by faces that reflect his own.

Something we hear again and again from our residential program participants is that the programs give residents the room to explore next steps without the constant pressure of seeking a safe place to stay. Tracy has had the space to deal with past trauma and think about his future: housing, going back to work, and continuing to work on his mental and physical health. “It’s allowed me to be kind to my future self. Everything I’m doing is allowing me to be healthier in the future: emotionally, physically. I’d like to do art therapy. That’s my dream job.”

Tracy has been able to take up art making again after a six-year hiatus. His art studio consists of a small desk in the corner of the house’s common living room. He shows off some of his most recent creations, assemblages inspired by Odyssey’s modest garden.

Odyssey House managing director Lisa Gayles shares that Tracy has been a good influence on others in the house. “He’s been able to develop some really good relationships with his peers and bring them out of their shells. He’s always positive. The spirit he brings is awesome.” Taking stock of Tracy’s progress, Lisa shares, “He’s a stronger advocate for himself now. He’s better at setting boundaries with others.”

Odyssey House and PRC’s other social rehabilitation programs are about providing an opportunity for people who feel like everyone else has given up on them. And to discover how to live their best life.

If you would like to invest in programs that help individuals like Tracy to live their best life, please consider making a donation to support PRC.