HOMELESS AND BLIND That's what was on the cardboard board that David Voith would hold, while he was waiting at a quay along the Hillandale shopping mall in Silver Spring for cars that slowed down. Sometimes drivers gave him a little money. Sometimes they looked at his eyes and offered medical advice. They would say to him: & # 39; & # 39; Cataract surgery, my wife understood, it works. & # 39; & # 39; But for Voith, 58, a tall, slender man with erratic features, the world of doctors and hospitals was a distant country. He was homeless for nearly 30 years and lived for the most part in the nearby forests or in the dank group of trees in the cloverleaf where the Beltway meets New Hampshire Avenue. One day, about four years ago, when he lay on that spot, a snail fell into his left eye and leaked liquid. At first his eye felt annoyed. Then he began to lose sight. Then the other eye started. Eventually he could only see a gray fog, his eyes wrapped in cataracts probably caused by years of welding and other trauma (and not by the snail).
Voith, 58, was homeless for 28 years. (Cheryl Diaz Meyer / for The Washington Post) Yet every day he felt his way to his overwhelming place. He had lived in the area since childhood and his body knew the paths and parking places. But it is difficult to grow old in the wild. The & # 39; zwamphole & # 39 ;, as he called his group trees, would overflow if it rained, cushions cushions and ruined his belongings. During great snowstorms, he formed an igloo around him and then went inside while it melted. Sometimes church people came along with food. One night, a year ago, when the temperature had dropped below freezing, someone else came along. Katie Millford, a case manager at EveryMind, a non-profit mental health organization based in Montgomery County, provided hypothermia controls and wild jackets, blankets or shelter for people sleeping in the open air. Under the trees she saw the sail that Voith had placed next to his hopes of possessions. She screamed to wake him up and shone a flashlight on herself to show who she was. But he could not see her. And he was on his guard. Who was this voice at night, he asked his name, asked if he needed anything?
Voith was homeless at the time. (Pathways) It took a few months for her to come to him to trust her, and even then he did not want help. "He was very against housing," Millford said. "He did not think anyone could help him." For Voith it was hoped to see again that eventually led him to accept a permanent shelter. That's not uncommon, said Christy Respress, Executive Director of Pathways to Housing, a non-profit organization that helps chronically homeless people with mental health problems in the District and Maryland to move into their own apartment. The organization also helps people get medical care while they are still living on the streets. "Often the need for health care is an entrance for housing," Respress said. Especially for older adults who remember the time when psychiatric care was a requirement to qualify for permanent housing, she said that accepting medical care contained less stigma. [A place where they can take their shoes off and say, ‘I’m home’] Voith had many medical needs. When he was sixteen, he started with his father on the sheet metal and he is still proud of the canal work he did at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport and the court buildings in Rockville. But after he had damaged a nerve in his left wrist, he had to stop working. He started buying waste containers for old iron and decided that it was easier to live in the forest than to pay rent. By the time Millford found him, he had, along with his eyes and handicapped hand, back problems, hip problems and the long-untreated Lyme disease. He received a Medicaid insurance card in the spring. In the summer he received a photo ID. Voith still lived on the street in the fall, when a surgeon at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, pro bono, was operating on his left eye. He said it was the worst cataract he had ever seen, & # 39; said Millford. The doctor told him he should not have his hope because the operation might not work. But when Voith peered out from behind the bandage, he discovered that it was. "Whee, I could see it again!" He said. "All you can do is thank God, I could see again!" The operation on his right eye, a month later, was also a success. "Oh, you can see it again", the drivers said when they drove upstairs. "Oh, I can see better than the ophthalmologist," he told them. "I can now see two miles away: I do not need glasses except fine print, it's amazing now." Once the care got underway, Voith began to open up to the idea of ​​permanent housing. took him to Pathways to Housing, which put him on the waiting list and in October moved him to an efficiency unit at Cordell Place, an apartment complex with 32 units in the center of Bethesda owned and managed by the non-profit Montgomery County Coalition for the homeless, although he said that it took him some time to adapt ("I went back to the forest for a while"), it has become his permanent home, he is still acting and dumps-dives but now he has a place to keep the treasures he finds – clothes, radios, umbrellas, a bottle of Nivea cream. "Oh boy, this is true in the woods where I lived," he said, sitting on his twin bed with a thick one on it mattress. "It is a blessing after 28 years of fighting against cold." He still takes the bus to his old place, a block from his old mushroom, to deal with the metal he collects, but he knows that at the end of the day, he can go home. And now that he has accommodation, he begins to think about repairing other parts of his life, such as reconnecting with his brothers and sisters, mother and other family with whom he has had no contact for years. He also made a few adjustments. First, after his surgery, he pulled out his sign and drew a line through the word "BLIND". That sign disappeared and he now has a new one. It no longer has the word & # 39; HOMELESS & # 39 ;.