“I love it,” says homeless man of Watertown’s new temporary housing facility

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 4:13 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Plagued by homelessness, money problems, and mental health issues, a Watertown man says he’s turning his life around. He says it’s thanks, in part, to the new temporary housing facility for homeless men in the city.

For the last two weeks, Thomas Russell has been living at the Pine Street facility run by Transitional Living Services of Northern New York. He’s hoping to become one of the facility’s first success stories.

“What you put into life is what you get out of life 100 percent. Stay positive and positive will be your outcome.”

That’s just one of the inspirational messages Thomas has written on the whiteboard in the community room - a room he shares with other homeless men who are also trying to put together the pieces of their broken lives.

“I’ve been couch surfing,” he said. “And I ended up buying a tent, staying behind my buddy’s house for two months’ time...And then I stayed at a shelter on State Street across from Jet Gas for two weeks which was unbearable. I wasn’t sleeping ‘cause there was individuals stealing things.”

Before Thomas moved into a room in the temporary housing facility, he was homeless for two years. A carpenter by trade, he says he was out of work during the pandemic shutdown. He had money problems. He spent time in jail.

The 43-year-old says he struggles with mental health issues including obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. He self-medicated.

“I used to be a very heavy drinker,” he said. “I’m one year, plus six months, plus three weeks sober of alcohol.”

Thomas is working with a case worker to help him sweep the past behind him and focus on getting the help he needs. He says this housing gives him the stability he needs to do that.

“I love it. I became friends with a lot of the people that are living here. I get along with everybody here. I get along with all the employees. I’m sweeping, mopping everything once a day. I’m out shoveling snow,” he said.

Thomas proudly shares old pictures of his carpentry work and his children. Both figure prominently in his goals for the future.

“The main objective is re-establishing with my two children. My kids are my life,” he said. “I want my own construction company - carpenter of 25 years...I do the work of three men. It’d be crazy not to have my own construction company.”

Thomas, like the other men at the housing facility, will live there for six to nine months. He plans to share his progress with us during his stay.