The hard road to a good place: Jeffery’s story

January 15th, 2019
Jeffery Miller Bey in Midtown, where he works as a cook at a popular eatery

The journey to self-sufficiency has been a steep climb for Jeffery Miller Bey.

There have been harsh detours and barriers along the way. To arrive at last, Jeffery has needed assistance with housing, employment and his mental health. Even when he got to a good place, he felt anxious about the slippery slope if something unexpected should befall him.

“I felt nervous at first when my subsidized housing ended because my earnings were too much,” Jeffery said. “I thought, what if I lose my job and I can’t pay rent and make ends meet. But then I told myself that I have to stay the path and continue to achieve my objectives. I’m not worried anymore. I’m enjoying how far I’ve come.”

Jeffery turned 53 this January. He is a veteran. He joined the army at 18, and he served for six years in the infantry. During his service and afterwards, Jeffery experienced PTSD and depression. Returning home to Detroit, he couldn’t find his footing in life.

In 2007, Jeffery was sentenced to prison after a felony conviction. He was incarcerated for six years and then placed on parole for two. Near the end of his parole, he purportedly committed an infraction and was then reincarcerated for several months. After his release, he stayed in a halfway house and got a part-time job as a dishwasher and cook at a treatment center and shelter on the east side.

In need of a stable place to live, Jeffery came to Southwest Solutions’ Housing Resource Center and applied for subsidized and supportive housing. After receiving a voucher, Jeffery moved into an apartment on the west side in early 2016. He also started mental health counseling through Southwest Solutions. In addition, Clinical Housing Specialist Don Wilson connected him with the supported employment program at the organization so that Jeffery could get a better job. The program provides job leads, assistance and resources to facilitate employment for participants.

“The people at Southwest Solutions helped me so much and I was fortunate to have them in my life,” Jeffery said. “I used to be in basic survival mode. I would just try to get through one day so I could live the next one. But my counselors and caseworkers helped me change my mindset.”

Last summer, Jeffery’s supported employment caseworker recommended that Jeffery interview for a job as a cook for a popular eatery in Midtown. Jeffery was hesitant to go.

“I thought the barriers in my life were too big for me to get the job,” Jeffery said. “But after ten minutes of interviewing me, the restaurant manager hired me on the spot and asked me to start the very same day.”

Jeffery is still at the eatery. He works full-time and makes a livable wage.  He takes the bus from his apartment each workday, and the commute is about an hour each way.

“I hope to advance in the restaurant,” Jeffery said. “It’s a great work environment, and they listen to my creative cooking ideas. I love to cook and I love seeing people enjoy the food that I’ve helped prepare.”

Jeffery is feeling healthier physically and psychologically than he ever has, he said. He attributes this to many reasons. His change in mindset. The stability of housing and the effectiveness of counseling. The discipline and satisfaction of work. Improved relationships. And a better diet.

“These things together allowed me to get off the medications I was on, and not having these medications in my system has made me healthier, too,” Jeffery said.

Jeffery still attends a men’s support group that meets at the Housing Resource Center and is co-lead by clinician Don Wilson. The group is for men who are recovering from various adversities, including homelessness, mental illness, addiction, and incarceration.

“Jeffery is a voice of experience and reason in the group, and he sees the group as a way to give back and help those with similar challenges,” Don said. “He is an example to others that you shouldn’t let barriers keep you from fulfilling your goals.”

“I emphasize that hopelessness is something that can be repaired,” Jeffery said. “I used to be so far gone into hopelessness that I felt completely beaten down. But now I am happy. I live in the moment and look forward to what’s ahead.”

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