Meet the Maker – Hyacinth King, HOME Made Gifts
Hyacinth King’s journey from homelessness to hopefulness is truly remarkable. The only child of parents who owned a chain of grocery stores, Hyacinth says growing up she “lived really well.” Hyacinth attended Friends Select School and went on to graduate from Temple University with a business degree. However, in her early 20s, Hyacinth began displaying symptoms of schizophrenia, a condition that would go undiagnosed and plague her for decades to come. Due to her illness, Hyacinth came to believe that her parents were trying to harm her, prompting Hyacinth to “get up one morning and drive away.”
She spent her days panhandling on the streets of Center City and quickly became dependent on prescription medications. At night she slept in an empty refrigerator box she jokingly refers to as “her condominium.”
Hyacinth initially resisted assistance saying she “didn’t want to be found.” The only help she accepted was cup of coffee and a cigarette a day from a police officer she came to know and trust. At that time, there was a small hole in the flimsy cardboard box through which she could see the world. She noticed lights turning on and off in buildings, and televisions flickering through apartment windows. She watched other people’s lives. Hyacinth said one day “it just dawned on her” that she could and should get help. After four attempts at rehab, Hyacinth’s condition had stabilized, she’d beat her addiction and became one of the first residents to call Project HOME’s supportive housing at 1515 Fairmount Avenue home.
Hyacinth is definitely adamant about one thing, and that’s that “[Project HOME Executive Director] Sister Mary is the greatest.” But anyone who has had the chance to speak with Hyacinth, or the people that surround her, will quickly realize that Hyacinth is pretty great, too. Hyacinth holds a seat on Project HOME’s board of trustees. She serves on the residents’ advisory board and works with the advocacy department. Two months ago, she started making soap and candles for HOME Made Gifts through Project HOME’s social enterprise program.
“I need to keep myself busy, and not be bored, and this helps me,” she said.
Additionally, Hyacinth is trained to work as an homeless street outreach counselor. The cooler temperatures will put a greater demand on her and her team to get people off the streets. But Hyacinth is prepared, and ready to share her story. Doing so “gives others hope” she says. Adding that, her “first day out on the street I got someone to come in.” She says “you have to come back again. Let them know that someone cares for them.”