Being born and raised in New York City, Robert Offley is no stranger to the concrete jungle. Robert had been street homeless for more than twenty years until he finally obtained permanent housing with Urban Pathways at the beginning of 2016.
Robert grew up in the Bronx and was raised by his mother where he was introduced to alcohol by age 14 and drugs at age 16. By age 23 Robert was married with 3 children and in a downward spiral with harder drugs.
Robert worked in the shipping business for 10 years until he was laid off. After losing his job, Robert worked as a porter for 7 years but was fired due to substance abuse and was eventually arrested due to possession of a controlled substance. Robert spent a one year jail and was diagnosed as a manic depressive. He was released from his incarceration and became homeless staying in Madison Square Park for over 10 years.
Life changed when Robert finally secured and apartment of his own, but he gave up his home up to care for his handicapped relative, it would be 5 years before Mr. Offley would be homeless again.
After his relative’s death, Robert couch-surfed and eventually returned to his comfort zone in Madison Square Park. When Robert’s father became ill he was called upon again to serve as a primary caregiver. Robert cared for his father until his passing. Once his father died, Robert again found himself once in Madison Square Park, reuniting with his old panhandling group of men and women who became his family.
After taking care of others for so long, Robert realized that is was he that he needed help. One day, Robert was sleeping on a bench in Madison Square Park when he suffered a brain aneurysm. Two months after being released from the hospital Robert returned to Madison Square Park, but this time sought out help.
He came across Urban Pathways Outreach team and decided to engage with them. Tiffany Porter, an Outreach Specialist in the Flatiron BID Outreach Program, met Robert in Madison Square Park and, after several months of engaging him in conversations and gaining his trust, Tiffany secured permanent housing for Robert in our newest residence located near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
Now Robert is very involved in resident activities in his building and is an active participant in client advocacy groups. He is a friend to everyone and is loved by the staff and residents.
Robert never forgot where he came from, and today he often travels from his apartment to Madison Square Park to see his friends who still live there and help them gain housing as he did.
He enjoys spending time with his grandchildren and visits his mother monthly. Today, Robert is a success story of the Madison Square Park community and an advocate for those who are sick and unable to care for themselves.
Robert uses his journey to find a home with Urban Pathways as an example, and shows others they too can obtain housing and live a better life. Thanks to Robert, some of his friends are on their way to permanent housing.
Urban Pathways has changed Robert’s life, giving him a sense of purpose when he wakes up in the morning. He has found himself again by finding a home, and always has a smile on his face that brightens up the room.
About Urban Pathways
Urban Pathways is a New York City-based, nonprofit organization that provides housing and support to homeless and at-risk adults throughout the New York Metropolitan area. Urban Pathways serves more than 2,000 homeless individuals a year and provides transitional, extended stay and permanent housing to chronically homeless individuals. www.urbanpathways.org.