Connecticut-born Thomas was raised in the Pioneer Valley and he attended Amherst Regional Middle and High Schools growing up. He has experienced some difficult times in recent years, but he specifically recalls this past summer as a rock-bottom moment for himself: he was struggling to keep his job, lost his apartment, and was dealing with some personal challenges. When he wasn’t staying on friends’ couches, he was sleeping outside of an abandoned gas station in a makeshift bed. What followed was he described as months of the day-to-day grind of searching for food and shelter and trying to stay afloat. Thomas cited resources like Amherst Community Connections and the Amherst Survival Center as having been critical in that time, with ACC helping him get the bus passes he needed to get around each day. He later found a part time job and began the routine of working and saving all of his money, all while not having a place to call home. Even with all of his progress, Thomas said that ultimately, “when you don’t have a secure place to sleep at night, everything else is just so much harder.”
After about 3 weeks of making countless phone calls to try to obtain stable housing, Thomas finally got a call back for an RSO house and was accepted on September 3rd. Thomas shared that it has become increasingly challenging to find affordable housing in the area as a local or low-income individual, as landlords spike rent prices for incoming students of the Five College Consortium – he feels lucky to have even come across the room he found. “It was so tough and I just had to look for myself. I can’t even imagine looking for housing as a family.” Resources like Amherst Community Connections are now more important than ever in providing support and access to resources like housing for the community.
Thomas came into ACC after seeing a sign on the street that offered various resources, like help finding permanent housing. Since his first visit, he has stopped by at least once or twice every week to follow up on other applications and goals he has set for himself. When asked about where he found the strength and courage to push onwards even in his most challenging of times, Thomas said he kept in mind everything he had lost and how much he wanted it all back. “It can and will get better – maybe not today or tomorrow, but it will.” He also spoke on the importance of honesty in his journey, with himself and especially with others who are in a position to help. He had to confront his needs and acknowledge that nobody can do it all by themselves. Thomas plans to continue working two jobs this year to save up enough to buy a car, and eventually aims to finish his Associate’s Degree and go on to study journalism and pursue his passion of writing. Thomas is thankful for all of the support groups like ACC have provided, and is excited to see what the future holds for him as he continues to take it one day at a time.