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From Homelessness to Hope — A Client’s Journey

Jhonathan has endured more than a decade of adversity before he came to Ability Beyond.

He hasn’t had any contact with his family since he immigrated to the United States from Mexico at the age of 12 and was forced to navigate a foreign country alone with a disability. Over the years Jhonathan has faced homelessness, poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination.

All that changed several years ago when someone called Ability Beyond and asked if we could help. Today, through our Supported Independent Living program,  Jhonathan has his own apartment, is learning to grocery shop on a budget, prepare healthy meals in his kitchenette, and pursue steady employment.

Last year, his dream of becoming an American Citizen also came true.

The  now 27-year-old can tell you the name of everyone who has helped him along the way —including his four-person support team at Ability Beyond.

“I don't forget,” he says, relaxing at home.

“Jhonathan has survived since he was 12 years old,” said Peter Sullivan, a Residential Program Manager with Ability Beyond. “It’s amazing how much this man has gone through and what he’s seen. Now he’s learning to care for himself in a setting where he’s not running all the time.”

“This story without my family”

Jhonathan was planning to meet up with family when he immigrated to the United States to start a new life. But something went wrong. Jhonathan never did connect with anyone. Instead, he was by himself with nowhere to turn.

He moved from city to city, and group home to group home. Everywhere he went—from Miami to Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, and Maryland—officials would ask:  where is your mother? Your aunt? Your sister? Your brother?

“It’s a long time, this story without my family,” Jhonathan said. “I didn’t have a regular childhood. I would listen to people in my school say, ‘My mother is good, my father is wonderful.’ My situation was more difficult.”

In a second language, Jhonathan conveys the hardship he endured—and the perspective that helped him survive. “The people have a saying about, ‘Tomorrow has no guarantee, no promise,” he said. “I am living for the day, one day at a time.”

Eventually Jhonathan found his way to Connecticut, guided by his faith: he had learned about a Seventh-day Adventist church in Danbury where the pastor and many parishioners were immigrants from Central and South America.

At the base of the mountain

“When we met Jhonathan, he was staying at a hotel near the mall,” Peter said. “The Department of Disability Services (DDS) had put him up temporarily and reached out to us for help. He didn’t have any place to go.”

That was Fall 2019—just before COVID-19 turned the whole world upside-down. Ability Beyond's Residential Services team worked with Jhonathan to find a studio apartment in Bethel, with a small porch that looks out onto the woods.

In partnership with Ability Beyond, DDS, and The Hispanic Coalition, Jhonathan’s dream of becoming a US citizen also recently came true.

On the morning of his swearing in, he was nervous. Ability Beyond staff picked him up early, and Peter reminded him on the hour-long drive:  the hardest part is over. When all was said and done, Jhonathan celebrated with his Ability team and his DDS champion Maria Quirke at Chipotle—his second favorite restaurant, next to Minas Carne on Osborne Street.

Today Jhonathan remains involved in church, where the pastor sees him as a son and parishioners pooled their money to buy Jhonathan a bike.

Jhonathan also finds comfort and consistency in his Ability Beyond family.

Staff—including Terri Schy and Manny Santana, who speaks fluent Spanish—visit three times a week to support Jhonathan as he adjusts to independent living. He buys groceries on a stipend from DDS and uses Money Club donations to do his laundry. Jhonathan is also seeking his first job:  working with horses at a nearby stable. They are his favorite animal because they are strong, smart, and majestic.

“We’re at the base of the mountain now,” Peter said. “It’s all up from here.”

Help Others Like Jhonathan Find Hope

Each year Ability Beyond helps more than 3,000 people with disabilities with residential services, employment training, transitional programs and so much more. Community support is critical to our mission to discover, build and celebrate the ability in all. Learn more about what you can do to help today!

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