Kevin was hospitalized due to a severe injury. He was homeless when he got out

While Centre County continues to help its homeless population, it’s important to remember the success stories of those who were able to change their situations.

After a severe head injury in late 2015 left Kevin Denochick hospitalized, he soon found himself evicted from his Philipsburg apartment.

“I got an eviction notice while I was still in the hospital,” Denochick said at the Centre House emergency shelter in downtown State College. “I wasn’t there to move anything out, so I asked my son, who lived next door, to get what he could.”

Unfortunately, he said, a “good deal” of his belongings were sold off by his ex-wife before she moved to Georgia. When he got out of the hospital, he immediately headed to the Centre House to speak with Housing Transitions.

Denochick said his health problems persisted, citing seizures and depression that sapped his will to live. But he found inspiration in the staff at Housing Transitions to push himself out of his situation.

“Even when I was feeling down, feeling like I wasn’t going anywhere,” he said, “the staff would always push me. They would say I’m making progress and meeting my goals.”

Goals were important in the early days, he said, as he sought to meet the ones he set for himself: get his own place, get a job and reconnect with his family. And while he worked to meet those goals, Housing Transitions helped him meet his own needs, such as shelter and clothes.

“Anytime I would have a problem while I lived here, I would go to (staff),” he said. “They helped me understand the mail I was getting and keep records for my doctor and lawyer.”

After about 14 months at Centre House, he said, he was able to secure his own apartment at Arnold Addison Court in State College. He still deals with health problems, and an ongoing disability case has prevented him from finding work just yet, but he says things are looking up.

“If it wasn’t for (Centre House) taking me in, I probably would have given up a long time ago,” he said.

Farther south in the borough, Elizabeth Chavez and her son, Aden, live a comfortable life in their Waupelani Drive apartment. Chavez said she’s been out of the shelter since the end of 2012 after a brief stint at Centre House.

Chavez said she grew up in Bellefonte, but was living in Milesburg when hard times hit. She said she never owned a vehicle, which made it hard to keep a job since there is almost no public transportation outside of Bellefonte.

“I had to continuously ask people for rides and eventually they got sick of it, even when I offered to pay for gas,” she said. “It was hard for me to keep a job living there, so eventually I was evicted.”

Chavez said she and her son spent about a month bouncing around friends’ houses, staying wherever they could. They even tried living with her sister in Chicago, but soon found themselves back in Centre County.

With nowhere else to go, she turned to Housing Transitions, she said. They didn’t have a room for her that night, but were able to put her up in a hotel room.

The next day, she interviewed for shelter, she said.

“The shelter isn’t a bad place to be,” Chavez said. “It’s a great place, but I wanted to get out.”

She and her son were given their own room and she started job hunting, she said. In five months time, she had found work and and had moved herself and her son into an apartment.

Housing Transitions offers a lot of support, she said, but you also have to want to help yourself.

“It’s a process,” she said. “It’s not an overnight thing. It’s a huge process, but it’s definitely worth going through all the steps.”

Chavez and her son were able to soon move from the first apartment to their current one off Waupelani. She’s also preparing for a new job at the Hearthside Nursing and Rehab Center.

“I learned a lot from the experience,” she said. “It’s stressful, but at the same time it’s motivating.”

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews