A Life Lesson
Steven Reed learned some hard lessons while living on the street for nearly 25 years.
But now Steven, a teacher by training and temperment, is working to convey those lessons to a new generation of Philadelphians as a tutor at our Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs (HLCCTL).
Growing up, Steven had little emotional support, which imbued him with a strong empathy for children lacking a stimulating home life and prompted his pursuit of a career where he could bolster their sense of self worth.
He graduated from St. Paul's College in Virginia with a degree in elementary education and spent the next several years teaching in Ohio and Georgia. But the life he had worked hard to build began to crumble as schizophrenia - undiagnosed and untreated - took its toll. He lost his job, his home. Everything.
For nearly 30 years, Steven scraped together an existence, first in Philadelphia, where he meandered through the shelter system, his disease hindering his ability to find a foothold. After 12 years, he sought the kinder winters of California, taking the bus when he could afford to, hitchhiking when he could not.
He lost another 13 years in shelters from San Diego to Seattle, until his schizophrenia was finally diagnosed. The diagnosis, coupled with the death of his mother, provided the impetus to "come in" and reclaim his life.
A chance encounter out West led him back to Philadelphia and eventually into our Kate's Place residence in Center City, where he has lived since 2010.
"In 25 years of homelessness, I never enjoyed the luxury of having my own room," he said. And, though the years on the street compromised his health, he feels fortunate to have survived, and is grateful to have the opportunity to parlay the "wonderful journey, a learning experience" into results.
Steven is now right back where he started all those years ago - helping kids become confident and successful. He currently tutors 3rd- and 4th-grade students in the HLCCTL's afterschool enrichment program, helping them overcome their own personal obstacles.