One man’s story of homelessness in Provo

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Anthony Perkins, 38, is a recovering alcoholic and resident at the Food and Care Coalition. The coalition houses residents who were formerly homeless to help them be rehabilitated back into society. (Katherine Orgill)

Anthony Perkins is a 38-year-old man living in Provo. His acquaintances describe him as a sweetheart, a kind person and someone who is eager to help and enjoyable to be around. Perkins is also homeless.

He grew up in a functional American Fork home with his brother and a single, working mother. At 18, Perkins moved to Provo, married and had two children but divorced soon thereafter.

Perkins has lived in a number of places throughout his life. From Kentucky to North Carolina, he held a number jobs, re-married, re-divorced, went to rehab, got some tattoos and went to jail on a misdemeanor. He admits he’s led “a hard life.”

Perkins has been a resident on and off at South Provo’s Food and Care Coalition.  The coalition acts as a transitional living facility and houses up to 34 residents at a time. It rehabilitates homeless individuals by helping with resumes and interview skills, overcoming substance abuse, paying for medical bills and helping with many other obstacles that often lead to homelessness.

Chronically homeless individuals, including Perkins, are some of the most vulnerable in the community. These individuals are typically harder to house, as they have spent an increased amount of time living outside in addition to having a disabling condition. It’s difficult for many to adjust to transitional living facilities because they’re accustomed to spending their time outside.

“Stories are variable, as people in general are varied; stories involve a lot of heartbreak. Sometimes they involve bad choices,” said Heather Hogue, Food and Care Coalition storehouse director. “That’s one thing that’s struck me from working here, that I was just one bad choice away from being where these people are. It all happens so quickly.”

There are an unlimited number of reasons for homelessness in Utah Valley, including difficulty obtaining affordable housing, fleeing domestic violence, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, children leaving foster care with no connections, generational poverty and unpaid medical bills. Organizations like the Food and Care Coalition primarily serve those in this service gap, who are without other resources.

Perkins suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, yet he has still held a number of jobs over the years, including working on farms as a machine operator.

Perkins has a brother who lives in Payson, and his mother lives in Spanish Fork. He does not have a relationship with his family now, but they have reached out to try to support him in the past. A few years ago, Perkins returned to live with his mother and held a job, but he ended up drinking excessively and pawning his car off for alcohol and money. His mother ultimately asked him to leave. His addiction to alcohol has gripped his life, and now he is trying to do things “on a sober level.”

Despite the many things Perkins has undergone, he remains optimistic and service-oriented. “I don’t know what drives me to be so helpful to people around me. Life has been hard,” Perkins said. “I think this kindness has probably come from my mother and from my Heavenly Father.”

Perkins was baptized at a young age but needed to be re-baptized into the LDS Church later and did so in 2014. He considers himself a religious individual and displays gratitude to God for the good in his life.

Perkins said now is a turning point in his life. His living conditions recently became so severe, he was living out of trash cans. “I was in really bad shape. I was sleeping under the University bridge for a while and trying to get cleaned up and get all the bad things out of my system,” he said.

The staff at the Food and Care Coalition were impressed with Perkins’ optimistic attitude during his month-long-stay. ”Anthony is a very kind person. He is very eager to do what we ask of him, to help himself transition in the program, and he understands that he needs help and guidance to transition into his own place, so he’s always willing to listen,” said Nancy Willes, Food and Care Coalition residential manager. “He’s wonderfully pleasant to be around.”

Perkins is just one of many individuals in Utah Valley who need local support to get back on their feet. Volunteers at the Food and Care Coalition are welcome to come help serve meals, meet with the visitors and help in any way they can.

“I’m so grateful for all the kindness that I’ve received in my life,” Perkins said. “The goodness in other people inspires to be a better man.”

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