From isolation to community

Shortly after Luis* was born, he was diagnosed as having a mild developmental disability. To protect him from bullying, his mother removed him from school before he started the 7th grade. From that point on, from the age of 12 till he was 30, Luis lived a very isolated life alone with his mother in their Bronx apartment with little to do but watch TV. He had no friends and never once left home without his mother. 

When his mother was admitted to the hospital with end-stage cancer, Luis stayed by her side for months. When his mother passed, Luis was devastated — left alone with no place to live and no one to take care of him. Luis needed a legal guardian to act on his behalf. That’s when Project Guardianship was appointed as his guardian. Luis was 31 years old at the time.  

We worked quickly to finalize his admission into a wonderful group home with 24-hour supervision that was a great fit. At first, Luis was extremely traumatized. He rarely spoke and would respond to questions with just a single word or a shrug of his shoulders. When our case manager gave him her phone number, he looked down and told her, “I don’t know how to use a phone.”

In just a year, Luis began to enjoy reading and painting, and grew increasingly comfortable socializing with others.

Over time, our staff worked diligently to optimize his stay at the home. Luis began to join in group activities — art contests, Special Olympics swimming meets, trips to Lake George and baseball games. In just a year, Luis began to enjoy reading and painting, and grew increasingly comfortable socializing with others. He began to receive life skills training learning how to handle money and use a computer.

Things continued to go well for Luis. He was ready for the next step, so we found him his own furnished studio apartment in a supportive housing program in Brooklyn, with limited supervision. Luis was thrilled. We make sure that he receives his SSI income and other benefits and services. He receives behavioral counseling and works with a peer counselor to navigate the tasks of daily living and live a more fully independent life. He goes grocery shopping and takes public transportation. He has company over and enjoys cooking his specialty pasta dishes. He enjoys going to the library to read his favorite sports magazines and biking all over Brooklyn. And, after completing a job training program, he now works at Whole Foods!

Luis is now 40 years old, and the trajectory of his journey has been dramatic and with wonderful outcomes. Just recently, he opened a bank account and is saving up to take a cruise. He is no longer the withdrawn person we first met and is now a man who is increasingly able to live on his own. We are currently exploring his readiness for perhaps the next phase in his life, when Project Guardianship might recommend to the courts that Luis is no longer in need of a guardian.

* “Luis” is a pseudonym for a Project Guardianship client and the photo attached is a stock photo (and not an actual photo of “Luis”). Project Guardianship maintains the privacy and protects the identity of, and all information related to, its clients.