“Waking up in the gutter with no one to ask for help…it’s the worst feeling in the world.”
Jason Balogh grew up in New York City feeling unloved by his father. Emotionally, and often physically abused, he grew distant from his parents, older brother, and sister. He sought solace in high school from alcohol and drugs. He also experienced emotional, mental and physical health issues. It wasn’t long before Jason found himself in and out of the juvenile criminal justice system.
At 15, his parents separated and Jason left his father and siblings to move to Florida with his mother in the hope of a better life. His behavior worsened as he abused his mother’s love. Eventually, Jason, the adult and still struggling with physical health issues, became a functioning alcoholic and cocaine user, holding various jobs in restaurants and bars. A 1 ½ year prison term didn’t change him and his drug use evolved into crack cocaine. After 20 years of struggle, he lost his job, his apartment and his self-respect. He was homeless – he’d hit rock bottom! Jason states “I knew I had problems, but I didn’t know how to fix them.”
The Path to Hope
He finally sought help and was encouraged to apply for Social Security Disability Income. Also, receiving medical insurance for the first time, he was diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder. Fully committed to sobriety and changing his life, Jason was referred to Catholic Charities. He arrived at Pinellas Hope shelter program in January 2015.
At Pinellas Hope, Jason immediately benefited from the structured environment. He set goals for himself, including earning his GED through the on-site education center. He utilized services provided at the shelter – counseling, physical therapy and education – to work on the issues that had originally led him to his downward spiral of drug use and eventual homelessness. He stayed true to this new course and applied for permanent housing. In less than four months, Jason went from living in a tent to signing a lease for his own apartment with Pinellas Hope Housing! With the affordable and supportive housing this program offers, Jason is now able to focus on the rest of his story – continued sobriety and a job!
Paying it Forward
Today, Jason has the support he needs to continue on his path to self-sufficiency. “I thank God for a second chance…I feel good!” he says. While his father died 6 years ago, he plans to reconnect with his remaining family at Thanksgiving. He’ll see his siblings for the first time in 6 years and his mother for the first time in 2 years. Back home, he is paying it forward by taking on the role of mentor for others at the shelter who are going through similar struggles, using his story to offer hope for the future. Says Jason, “It would be all worth it to tell my story, just to save one person.”