Robert is an Urban Pathways’ resident who works for Services for the Underserved as a Peer Specialist helping individuals who are where he once was.

Robert grew up in the 1970s in the South Bronx. The area was home to some of the most crime-ridden, drug-infested neighborhoods in the city at that time.

Seeing this poverty and sadness daily as a child contributed to Robert’s sensitivity and depression. At age 13 Robert was placed on medication and hospitalized. For the next several years he was in and out of various hospitals, finally being diagnosed as bipolar.

Robert’s mother took care of him until she passed away from cancer in 2011. After her passing, Robert had to move out because he had no job due to his illness. He left the apartment for good and started couch surfing with friends and family members.

Struggling with depression and homelessness, Robert was hospitalized in 2014. He met with a social worker who knew of his housing problems and connected him to Urban Pathways.

Things started to turn around for Robert once he moved into an Urban Pathways’ supportive housing residence in the Bronx. He started training to become a Peer Specialist.

“I wanted to give back, I wanted to help someone who is where I once was.”

In 2018, Robert was selected to move into Urban Pathways’ newest residence, Howard Amron House in Manhattan. Robert’s big move was documented in a CNN Champions for Change story.

Since moving to Howard Amron House, Robert completed his training to become a Peer Specialist and started working part-time at local nonprofits.

In September of last year, Robert was hired as a Peer Specialist by Services for the Underserved and started working with an 11-client case load. “I perform wellness checks on the clients, I connect them with services, create progress plans, and schedule their appointments and transportation.’‘

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 outbreak, Robert’s work schedule has changed. As an essential worker, Robert still works three days a week in his office and one day remotely. Due to CDC guidelines, Robert does not meet with the clients in person. He performs all of his responsibilities over the phone.

Robert has great relationships with his clients, including three who he is particularly close to. Robert attributes his connection with clients to the fact that he shares his past experiences of being homeless and dealing with mental health issues.

“I am here as a resource and an ear to listen to them. Hopefully they can learn from my experiences and that empowers them to take initiative in their own lives.”

Robert said that his clients’ appreciate him checking in on them during this time. “With so much uncertainty due to COVID-19, clients routines have been upended. For them, hearing from me is calming and familiar during these difficult times, and it makes me happy to know that they are doing ok.”