Joe Dixon – Ashburton Apartments
Joseph (Joe) Dixon is a fit looking guy in his early 30’s. He’s soft spoken and open with a genuine air of calm and competence about him. Born and raised in Glen Burnie, he’s lived in Baltimore for most of the last 10 years. He’s a plumber by trade and a musician and performer by avocation. You may have even seen him on occasion busking down on the waterfront playing his guitar and singing songs by Bob Marley, Sublime and others. You may also have seen him, though you probably wouldn’t recognize him now, when he was working the corners and streets around North Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. You see, for nearly 5 of the 10 years Joe’s been in Baltimore he was homeless and living in the camps you see dotted around downtown or sleeping in a car somewhere nearby.
Joe wasn’t alone when he was living on the street. His wife, Monica, and his 4 year old son, Trenton, were living in the camps and cars as well. Joe and Monica have been together for 6 years and married for 5. Their descent into homelessness occurred after they were married although the substance abuse that led to it began somewhat earlier. Trenton was born while they were homeless though they rented a room for a few months to avoid scrutiny by Child Protective Services. Once the threat of forcible separation had passed they resumed their life on the street to free up funds for the heroin they both craved.
It got so bad that Joe, a healthy looking 170 lbs. now, barely tipped the scales at 120 lbs. “I thought I had AIDS,” he said during our interview. His veins degraded to the point that he resorted to injecting himself in the neck, something that most would find unimaginable. He also lost friends while on the street, homeless folks like himself, and though he and others mourned their passing he said everyone’s first reaction was to go through the deceased’s pockets– “No sense letting the cops get anything valuable.”
Finally, self-loathing and concern for his family forced Joe to commit to getting clean. In September of 2013 he persuaded Monica to take Trenton and move into a shelter while he checked into Powell Recovery Center for detox and treatment. When he got out a few months later and went to reunite with Monica and Trenton he discovered that Monica had long since moved out of the shelter, sent Trenton to live with relatives in West Virginia, and was herself living in a “crack house” in West Baltimore. Unable to persuade Monica to seek treatment, Joe at least wanted to be with his son. He earned enough money busking to buy a car and brought Trenton back to Baltimore. Still, he lacked permanent housing. In a moment of inspiration, he called Child Protective Services. They, in turn, referred him to the Family Recovery Program, a Baltimore nonprofit that specifically serves parents of very young children who have documented substance abuse issues.
That’s how Joe and Trenton became residents of our Ashburton Apartments property. Eight of the 24 units there are reserved for use by the Family Recovery Project. The remaining units are rented to low and moderate income individuals and families. The Family Recovery Project continues to support Joe and Trenton in Joe’s continuing effort to put his addiction solidly behind him. One of the key components of that is a stable and wholesome family environment. Ashburton Apartments represents a cornerstone of that effort by providing a clean, well-maintained, and safe place to live.
In mid-May 2015, Monica, currently undergoing inpatient treatment for her own addiction, will join Joe and Trenton at Ashburton. One of the requirements of residency is that individuals must have 6 months sobriety before they can move in. Joe is confident that they will make it as a family– clean, sober and earning their own way. Having secure, stable housing will be a big factor in their eventual success. On Ashburton Joe says, “It’s incredible. I really didn’t think it [having a place to live] would happen. So many times before, it just didn’t work out. But not this time.” Having a place to live is a place to start. We, too, are confident that Joe, Monica and Trenton will succeed and we’re proud to have been able to contribute to their success.