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Media contact: Eileen Sigler, 541.780.5137


SVdP housing program helped barber cut old habits

Categories: Email Newsletter, Housing, Staff Stories
Author: Judy Hunt, enews editor
Date: Friday, November 18 2011
Don builds a father-son relationship from the top down.

At last, Don has found a place in Downtown Eugene. And he has found himself.

Some would say that’s not so bad for a guy just 36 who recently opened his second barbershop. Don also has a distinct sense of style and artistry that are manifested throughout his shop, and he’s building a solid relationship with his 4-year-old son.

That’s a far cry from earlier years when Don’s great potential was too often sidelined by the vicious cycle of lifelong depression compounded by self-medication and addiction. All that has changed since he turned to the de Pauls – first the Portland-based treatment program followed by LIFT (Living Independently Following Treatment), a supportive housing program operated by St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County.

Most importantly, Don changed from within. “I had stopped a few times,” he said of his debilitating consumption of alcohol. “The last time it hurt enough.”

Originally from Redding, Don got interested in barbering and hairstyling while still in his teens. The work was artistic, paid well, and allowed for travel.

He worked in Portland as a stylist and teacher, specializing in the art of dyeing hair bright red or blue and living a lifestyle prone to excitement and drama. Then came a burnout, and a transition to a more conventional barbershop shop under the wings of seasoned barbers.

But Don didn’t – couldn’t -- give up the most addictive components of his old lifestyle. He stumbled into his thirties, waking up too often under bridges or in detox facilities.

At 32, he decided he’d had enough.

“Which bridge do you have to sleep under before you reach your lowest point,” he commented.

He contacted de Paul Treatment Center and was accepted immediately. He will “leave it to the universe” to explain why he wasn’t added at the bottom of the six-month waiting list. “I’m very thankful for it,” he said.

Behavior modification helped, as did rubbing elbows with some downright frightening fellow patients. After three months he returned to Eugene and discovered SVdP’s LIFT program, managed by Thanh Duong.

LIFT (for Living Independently Following Treatment) combines individual support, referrals and the most critical piece – safe, affordable housing – to help people in recovery identify paths to a sober lifestyle and self-fulfillment.

By the time people leave treatment and enter the recovery phase, many have lost housing and credibility as potential tenants. Don couldn’t afford a recovery house and was couch surfing when Thanh Duong arrived to describe the qualifications for LIFT.

Don was a good candidate. He had a handle on sobriety but needed a home base from which to build a business and a father-son relationship. As a LIFT participant, he got an affordable apartment, case management, and a referral to a family therapist who helped with parenting issues.

It was a relatively simple formula. If needed LIFT also could have made a variety of referrals for mental health and addiction, childcare, personal finance, job training, renter rehabilitation, and the array of emergency services available through SVdP’s Social Service Office.

Said Thanh, “We just got Don into stable housing, and we’d meet on a weekly basis to see what we could do to support him in recovery and in his relationship with his child.”

Don’s goal of opening his own barbershop shop was only temporarily hampered by redevelopment and high rents in Downtown Eugene. In late 2010 he opened the Crossfades Analog Barbershop in his second-favorite town, Astoria, followed this fall by the Analog Barbershop at 862 Olive in Eugene. He calls it a “hip version of an old institution.”

In addition to conventional services, Don offers the rare “straight razor and hot-towel shave.”  A sign on the sidewalk prices haircuts at $15 “until the end of the world.”

Mayan calendar predictions apply, so count on that price through 2012.

He also offers a 10 percent discount to residents of St. Vincent de Paul’s affordable housing.

During lulls these days, Don plies his brush and acrylics to a bigger-than-life-size Santa taking shape in a back room. And he contemplates the forces that have brought him to this point.

“Thanh is an amazing, dedicated individual who’s helping a lot of men in this county,” he said. “He was always there when I needed to talk, even after-hours.”

And Don takes great satisfaction in his sobriety.

“If you really want to change you can,” he said. “It’s actually more challenging than anything I’ve ever done.

“That’s part of the reward. The challenge is stronger.”