Johnny: A Light in the Community

Johnny: A Light in the Community

By: Robin Richards

Many of Unique People Services individuals have compelling life stories of perseverance and survival. One of those individuals is Johnny L.

Johnny L. or “Johnny”, as he is affectionately known within the community, is a program resident of Unique People Services (UPS). Johnny was born in New York City into a loving home until tragedy struck twice. After the loss of his father, his mother struggled to take care of their 13 children. When Johnny was a teenager, his mother became ill and passed away resulting in all 13 children becoming orphans. The children were split up, some stayed in New York City, while most were relocated to the southern US. Johnny was diagnosed as a high functioning developmentally disabled individual and the loss of his mother, who gave Johnny the special attention that he needed, had a lasting impact on Johnny. During his teenage years, Johnny moved frequently between multiple homes, and then as an adult to various transitional housing programs. Johnny needed permanent, stable, supportive housing that would support his independence, socio-emotional needs with wrap around support.

At a young age, feeling lost and alone, Johnny turned to alcohol for comfort. Johnny shared that alcohol served as a comfort for emotional triggers and replaced his friends, family and caregiver. Johnny continued on this path until someone encouraged him to seek help from Unique People Services. This fateful decision to contact UPS for support has changed Johnny’s life. Unique People Services provided Johnny with stability, care and community support that he needed. He not only received permanent housing, but also housemates who later became his friends. The residence manager, Richard P., who Johnny refers to as his father, but is more his peer in age, said, “It has been a pleasure supporting Johnny. He is a great individual. He is willing to help and goes above and beyond to do so. He is well known and well liked in the community an if he sees someone in the street in need, he is very quick to offer his help“.

Johnny has now been sober for six years and he is living a full, happy, and productive life. During Johnny’s free time, Johnny works multiple jobs, mainly related to maintenance support. Johnny is travel ready, which means he is capable of traveling outside of the residence without staff supervision.

It is easy to see why his friends, the community, and the residence staff hold Johnny L. in such high regards. At the end of our interview, Johnny asked me to wait a moment for him to retrieve his jacket because he wanted to walk me out. He accompanied me to the bus stop as the weather turned chilly and insisted on seeing me board the bus, waving goodbye as the bus pulled away.

Johnny L.’s life is a testament to the success and actualization of one’s potential if provided adequate support, resources, stability and an optimistic mindset. Although we cannot change his past, the help of the caring management and staff at Unique People Services has afforded Johnny L. to thrive and shine a light in his community.