Four years ago, Anthony was panhandling on Harlem Avenue. Today, with the help of Housing Forward and what he calls his “angels,” he thinks he can see the goal he’s been working for in the distance.
After three years of living on the street, Anthony related, “I had fallen down a hole so deep that I didn’t think I could start over again.”
“But then,” he added, “I got a second chance.”
What happened was that he met two of those angels who began their ongoing relationship by giving him a bottle of water they had purchased at Thorntons gas station. They helped him and his fiancé get into the Housing Forward emergency shelter. The nonprofit set him up with a caseworker who did an assessment of their situation and resources and eventually was able to move the couple into a walk-up apartment in Northlake.
He thought he was finally on the high road to getting on his feet until a police officer pulled him over and said the borrowed car he was driving had a non-functioning tail light. The officer ran his license number and discovered there was a warrant out for his arrest, so instead of continuing on to Walgreens to pick up some medications, he was taken directly to Cook County Jail for three days and then transferred to Lake County Jail.
After surviving those hell-holes, he was transferred to Waukegan and spent a few days there before another angel bailed him out.
Anthony has insisted all along that he is innocent of the burglary charge Lake County brought against him, but his public defender advised him to take a plea bargain, pleading guilty and being put on probation instead of facing the possibility of going to jail.
Anthony put it this way: “I had certain cards in my hand, and the prosecuting attorney had cards in his hand. I didn’t know what he had, so going to trial would have been a gamble. If I win I go free, but if I lose, I go to jail for between four and 14 years.”
Anthony took the plea bargain and up until April 25 was on parole with a long list of mandated responsibilities, all of which he has had to pay for, at least in part.
He has been mandated by the state to do random drug tests, report to the court in Waukegan at times, make regular visits to his parole officer, go to a clinic once a week for mental-health counseling and take prescribed medications, and he’s been required to pay at least a portion of the costs of the mandated obligations.
Housing Forward helped him by paying his rent, getting him and his fiancé Link Cards for food, finding a clinic for them nearby, and giving them job leads. What they could not do is cover any of his court costs because they did not have the funding for that.
So when Anthony appeared in court on April 25 and heard that because he had done well on probation, he would be put on supervision with no more required actions and therefore no more charges, a great burden lifted. “I felt like celebrating,” he said, “except that I had no money to celebrate with.”
The problem is that even though the end of his odyssey is in sight, he’s not there yet because of problems created by being homeless and having to deal with the Lake County court system.
Physically, he contracted Hepatitis C while homeless and has lost several teeth due to neglect. Emotionally, he has been diagnosed with, among other things, severe depression and a kind of PTSD. Living on the street, he said, is truly like being on a battlefield every day you’re out there, not to mention his three days in the Cook County Jail.
He also has to make financial restitution for filings and charges that remain unpaid.
Though challenges remain, if he stays out of trouble and continues with his behavioral health counseling, all charges and details of his parole will be removed from his record in October of 2024. Only the police will ever know what has happened.
“Now that I’ve gotten past April 25 I feel like I can move on with my life,” he said adding, “a little bit.”