In recognition of February’s annual recognition of Jewish Disability Awareness Month, we introduce you to Dan and Steve, who live at JEVS Tikvah Residence.
“Tikvah does mean hope and there is hope in this building.” — Dan
Meet Dan and Steve. Two friends who are achieving independence and managing their disabilities together at JEVS’ Tikvah Residence in Drexel Hill, Pa., which offers comfortable and affordable community housing for adults with mental health needs.
Dan has lived in the Tikvah building for 16 years, and was the first one to live there. And in May 2002, Steve moved in. When asked how the two first met, Dan said he will never forget that moment.
“When Steve first moved in, I was afraid of him. Not physically, not like fighting, I just had a fear of him,” Dan explained. “But through Monday night dinners and Tuesday night dinners, I just got to know him and he became a friendly guy.” They are good friends now and seem to really admire one another. “The reason I like Steve is because he’s down to earth and he’s real. He’s very friendly. I get along with him.”
Steve added, “I can say the same thing for Dan. He wants to do whatever he can for the next person.”
For almost four years, Steve has been working part-time as a Certified Peer Specialist for Child Guidance Resource Center in Delaware County. He has been a Certified Peer Specialist since 2006.
“I have 11 clients. I help individuals and they like what I’m doing,” Steve said.
Steve has bipolar disorder, a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings. The Tikvah program has provided him support through challenging times. “Marty (Tikvah Program Manager) and my psychologist have helped me overcome problems that I develop from being bipolar, and I appreciate both their help,” Steve said. “I want to do well for myself and do well for others.”
With help from the Tikvah program, Dan is now living an independent, healthy life. But it was a difficult road to get to this point and achieve recovery. “Without this house, I know I’d be dead. Either I’d be in jail or I’d be dead because of the lifestyle I lead and the drugs and alcohol I did,” Dan said. “This Tikvah program, it’s my life.”
Dan has been drug-free for 35 years and alcohol free for 12 years. He was out on the streets for a long time and feels blessed that he is able to go home to a warm apartment at Tikvah. “From the streets, to an apartment, to mental health and now to here. I have a shirt upstairs in my closet that says ‘Tikvah is Hope’ and it is,” Dan said. “Hope to me means there’s a chance.”
Dan also has a job and is a paid worker for JEVS doing maintenance work at the Tikvah apartment building. He said the job keeps him going and that it is good for his mental health. “It’s my own motivation that I want to feel better and do better in my life,” said Dan.
Steve also has goals he is working toward and would like to become a Certified Peer Specialist Supervisor. Just last week, he took the supervisor course through the Tikvah Alliance for the Jewish Mentally Ill.
“I will have the ability to help people in a better way,” Steve explained. “The job means everything for me right now.”