“My name is Ethan Thomas, I was born in Vermont in 1989 and was raised by a single mother who worked two jobs and went to college full time to support my brother and I. Homelife was tough at times with a mother constantly on the go, a brother who was an alcoholic, and an uncle who was abusive. I did well in elementary school, but I started to go downhill around 8th grade and into high school. I was angry then and struggled to cope with the death of my grandfather, who was the first person I lost who I cared about.
After his death, I was very depressed and started to abuse drugs and alcohol to alleviate the pain of grief. During my childhood, my best friend and I chose to start stealing to support our partying habit. We decided to break into a gun store and steal guns to sell them for drugs. At that time I was 17 years old and received a deferred sentence since it was my first charge and being under age they went easy to give us an opportunity to straighten out… unfortunately, we didn’t, we continued to steal and drink.
I kept getting new charges ranging from domestic assault, possession of malt beverages as a juvenile and escapes. I am now almost 30 years old and during the past 10 years I have been under supervision and spent years of my life in jail. I tried many different programs to try and help myself to figure out my life, ranging from going back to my mothers, Circles of Support and Accountability, Return House and Phoenix House. I failed all those programs.
I was able to stay out of jail for over two years when I met my wife Amber, I was then put in jail due to a tragic fire that the state believed I had set when I wasn’t even in town at the time of the incident, so, I ended up in jail again from lack of residence. I had heard of Pathways Vermont’s Housing First Program while in jail from my caseworker David who said I would be a very good fit due to my mental health struggles so I decided to give it a shot.
I had only heard good things about Pathways Vermont and how supportive they were and the good community resources they provide. I was accepted into the Housing First Program and given a one-bedroom apartment with a brand new bed, all appliances, a coffee maker and anything else you may need to make a house a home. I would have been absolutely happy to just have an efficiency with a blanket on the floor yet Pathways went the extra mile with everything to make me feel welcome and like I meant something to someone.
I am eternally grateful for all they have helped me with, ranging from jobs to rent to counseling and support with my situation and current mental health issues. I couldn’t ask for more. Dan, my Housing Coordinator, is an amazing guy who is very thorough with explaining everything in my lease to me piece by piece and Sandra, my Service Coordinator comes to my apartment to see how I am and see how the week is going and helps me work on goals that I have for myself.
Since being in the Pathways Vermont Housing First Program, I have found a job, signed up for college and am currently attending classes. I also grew a relationship with my wife and children for the better. Everyone at Pathways gives me good structure and if I’m super busy they are flexible when needed. Currently, they assist me with job searching and making my appointments with the doctor they have for Pathways clients. The range of help they can provide is more than any other program I have been in, they don’t judge and have the compassion most don’t. Plans for the future include staying sober, graduation from Pathways, pay my own bills in full, live with my wife and children, finish my sentence from the Department of Corrections, continue schooling for a degree, and build up my credit again to be in a better spot financially.”