Amidst the constant stream of changes brought on by the past year, stability can feel like all but a distant memory. For those facing food and housing insecurity, this lack of stability can cause setbacks in the journey to self-sufficiency. This has been the experience for Gartee, a client at Shepherd’s Table.
Gartee is a Silver Spring local, having grown up in foster care in the area. After aging out of foster care at 18, Gartee understood that it would be difficult to avoid a life living on the streets. Driven by a love for sports and a strong work-ethic, he enrolled in school. There, he was able to run cross-country and earn enough credits for an associate’s degree. Before graduating with his bachelor’s, however, Gartee found himself struggling to stay focused on his goals. In reflecting on that era of his life, he remembers having too few responsibilities to keep him on track. Lacking the necessary accountability to anchor him to his ambitions, and he ultimately dropped out of college.
The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing global recession worsened circumstances for Gartee, and he found himself in the longest stint of homelessness he’s experienced. Although motivated to find a job, the past year has brought on record high unemployment numbers that have made it nearly impossible.
When Gartee first heard of the daily meals offered at Shepherd’s Table, he recognized it as an opportunity he didn’t want to miss. “Stability is the biggest thing when it comes to being homeless,” he shared. “Food, water, shelter—that’s what everyone needs.” Gartee accurately identifies a common obstacle in the journey out of homelessness. When an individual’s most basic needs are not being met and require a person’s full attention, there’s little time or energy available to work towards larger goals. At Shepherd’s Table, we begin by meeting an immediate felt need, no questions asked, so our guests have the fuel they need to identify and work through other obstacles to their self-sufficiency.
For Gartee, our food programs provided consistent meals every day of the week, which enabled him to connect with additional resources. Our building, Progress Place, houses not only Shepherd’s Table but Interfaith Works, a partner organization. Interfaith Works was able to offer Gartee a place in their shelter, and eventually, an opportunity at independent housing. The dependability of daily meals is critical in the journey along the continuum of care, and yet it’s only the beginning. By providing this service, we’re able to work with our guests to identify other needs and possible solutions. For Gartee, this has enabled him to pursue independent living.
Gartee is driven and hard-working, with clear and actionable goals. “I’m taking steps to get to where I need to be,” he shared with our team. He’s focused on getting back to school and pursuing sports medicine at Maryland College, planning to ultimately work as a personal trainer. To prepare for his studies, he pours over textbooks on anatomy, physiology, and psychology, eager to learn as much as possible. His discipline and history with sports will equip him to be an excellent personal trainer. In addition to his passion for sports medicine, Gartee is a talented writer and poet. He enjoys rap and spoken word, and has used both as tools to process his experiences. He’s looking forward to living in his own apartment as he steps into this next phase of his story.
As Gartee identified, every person needs dependable food, water and shelter. By meeting these needs, Shepherd’s Table offers people like Gartee a chance to pursue their goals and step into the fullness of who they are.