I've been up and down and over and out,
And I know one thing:
Each time I find myself layin' flat on my face,
I just pick myself up and get back in the race!
The lines above from the song That’s Life, made popular by Frank Sinatra, could well have been written about “Roc,” St. John Center’s newest housing client.
To say the Elizabethtown, Ky. native has seen his share of challenges is an understatement. His childhood years were difficult due to what Roc described as a “dysfunctional” family. Issues with alcohol and drugs lead to more trouble.
Homeless since 2013, Roc was struck by a hit-and-run driver on Dixie Highway that same year. It cost him his right leg. “It was just by the grace of God that I survived,” he said.
This winter Roc’s survival instinct was put to the test again. The stubborn 48-year-old preferred to stay outdoors rather than in emergency shelters. He braved several days of bitterly cold temperatures before his camp was cleared by the city. Roc found himself in a hotel room paid for by a generous stranger.
After being indoors for a while he became aware of a foul odor emanating from his left leg. He was transported to the hospital where the leg was amputated.
Homeless camp "clean ups" by Metro Public Works had become headline news, and Roc became the subject of several media reports.
Every cloud has a silver lining and all the misery he suffered eventually lead Roc to St. John Center housing case manager Tiny Herron. With the help of a federal grant, Tiny found Roc a home. “Tiny has done a lot for me. She don’t play. She gets the job done,” said Roc.
Delivering the good news that Roc would soon have a place to call home was an emotional moment for Tiny and her client. “Being at Roc’s camp the day the city was clearing it out and telling him he would be receiving housing through St. John Center was the highlight of any outreach or housing scenario for me,” Tiny explained.
“I will never forget the look on his face when he heard he would be getting an apartment. A moment of fear and wondering where he would go immediately gave way to a hope-filled smile and he began to cry,” said Tiny.
“I think about where the hell I’ve been. I lived like a pig for a long time. All I was basically doing was dying. I was a walking dead man,” Ric said. “Ain’t nothing like being home, man. I really enjoy my abode. It makes me feel good as a person. My self-worth has gone through the roof.”
Unfortunately, Roc had to undergo yet another surgery to remove more of his leg since moving into his apartment. He has not let it get him down.
“I have never met a more positive, upbeat individual. Not once has he ever felt sorry for himself,” said Tiny. “I've had the pleasure of seeing Roc cleaning his apartment and relaxing in his apartment. He is so proud of his home.”
A writer at heart, Roc is never too far from paper and pencil. “I write because it’s a release. I think people want to hear my story. I have a lot to say,” he admits. “You ain’t seen nothing yet. I’m healed now. I’m going to be hell on wheels.”