Born in Augusta, Georgia and raised in the Bronx, John is the oldest of eight children.
After high school, John held various jobs including: caterer, grounds keeper and nursing assistant, among others. These jobs took John through East Coast states like Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia during the 80s and 90s. He settled in New York in the early 2000s.
While living in Hunt’s Point, John’s building was condemned without warning following the landlord being convicted of drug charges.
John was never able to retrieve his belongings and was homeless for the next two years.
During this time John couch-surfed with family while falling into a deeper depression that he had been able to manage before becoming homeless. As his depression worsened, John’s drinking and drug use increased. Over the next two years, John migrated back through various East Coast states staying with family and friends.
In 2013 John entered a Bronx Works program and stayed there for two years fighting depression and drug and alcohol addiction until his supervisor suggested detox.
In 2015 John entered detox, and says those next 31 days were the best of his life. They led to him quitting drugs and alcohol for good.
After finishing detox, John came to Urban Pathways. During that time he enrolled in and graduated from the six-month Howie The Harp peer advocate program. John continued to be drug and alcohol free, living at an Urban Pathways' supportive housing residence, Cluster House on the Upper West Side. At that time, John began interning to become a Certified Peer Specialist at The Bridge: a treatment center for individuals recovering from alcohol and drug abuse; as well as mental illness.
John moved into his own condo in Parkchester in 2018 as part of Urban Pathways’ Moving On Initiative.
UPDATE: August 2019
John Burnett is now a Certified Peer Specialist at The Bridge, he completed his internship in April of 2018. John now facilitates weekly groups focusing on treatment, maintaining sobriety, and rehabilitation. Individuals attending John’s groups have been formerly incarcerated, diagnosed with a mental illness or are struggling with drug and/or alcohol abuse.
“I love coming to work everyday, I have lived the life that a lot of the group participants have lived. I know how hard it is to maintain sobriety and I know what it’s like to feel like you are not being heard. Facilitating these groups is me giving back, I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for Urban Pathways.”
John continues to live in his condo in Parkchester, and in his spare time loves to cook and go for walks in his neighborhood.
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 3,700 at-risk and homeless individuals a year and provides transitional, extended stay and permanent housing to chronically homeless individuals. www.urbanpathways.org. Donate