From the bottom to the top | Keyion Briscoe’s Journey HOME
For most incoming freshmen, the beginning of their college career is the start of a hopeful new life but for Keyion Briscoe, it was a reminder of how precarious life can be for someone with little margin for error.
After committing what he admits were “a series of dumb mistakes,” Briscoe was dismissed from the Art Institute of Charlotte and found himself effectively stranded in North Carolina with few options. The trying years to come would shape the man he is today.
Now housed and employed as a receptionist at both our Ruth Williams House at the Gene & Marlene Epstein Building and Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, Briscoe can now look back on those dark years for what they would become—the foundation on which he is building his new life.
Unfortunately for Briscoe, his eventual return to the Philadelphia area was not the homecoming he would have preferred. One of nine children, all of whom were raised by their grandmother in North Philadelphia while their own parents battled addiction, his family’s financial instability left Briscoe largely on his own.
His sister was able to provide him with space in her home during that difficult first year, but Philadelphia Housing Authority rules prevented him from staying. The abrupt eviction left Briscoe jumping from couches to shelters and back again. At one point in the span of a year, he floated between three different recovery facilities seeking help.
In the middle of a very cold winter, once again on the streets, Briscoe sought temporary refuge at our Stephen Klein Wellness Center in North Philadelphia. What he found there was more lasting; a sympathetic ear and a direction out of the darkness.
Staff arranged a bed for Briscoe at the respite at 1515 Fairmount Avenue, and he earned himself a job at the James Widener Ray Homes reception desk. The job was good, but it did not end his struggle with homelessness and he soon found himself falling back into the cycle he worked hard to escape.
Through it all, Briscoe drew comfort and inspiration from his grandmother, whom he described as his best friend. Her 2017 death provided him with a moment of clarity and Briscoe, then 24, pledged to himself that he would honor her memory by escaping the streets before he turned 25.
That goal having been accomplished, Briscoe is setting his sights higher, planning for a future in hospitality management.
The journey hasn’t been easy, said Briscoe, but he finds it useful to remind himself that “…these are the circumstances that helped you grow and to get out of the situation that you’re in.” Each day he uses his experiences and life lessons to pave a path toward a future that looks nothing like his past.