Out of the Woods: Wayne Lambert shares how Monarch helped him overcome addiction and homelessness
When Wayne Lambert wakes up, he puts on a pot of coffee, makes his bed and straightens his apartment. From his open window, he can hear the creek in his backyard and the birds in the woods nearby. This might seem like a normal morning. But six months ago, Lambert never dreamed that after living in the woods for 30 years, he would ever have an apartment to call his own.
“I really still can’t believe this happened. I catch myself looking around when I’m in my apartment by myself,” Lambert says, tears gathering in his eyes. “I’m learning how to keep a bed. I’ve never slept in a bed.”
Lambert’s journey has been long.
Jennifer Greene, MA, LPC, a Monarch clinical operations manager, met Lambert in February 2015. She went to a homeless shelter in Lincolnton, where Lambert was staying, to give a presentation about Monarch’s resources. Greene says Lambert’s courage and perseverance helped make his dream come true.
“I had never asked for help in my life,” Lambert says. And he wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of doing it now. But something about Greene’s talk stayed with him, and one day, he came to see her at the Lincoln Wellness Center, a safe and supportive place in Lincoln County where adults, adolescents and children with mental illness, substance use disorders or intellectual and developmental disabilities can go to get the help they need from Monarch or the three other partner providers at the Center.
Lambert told Greene he had been living in the woods on and off for more than 30 years after struggling with addiction, and suffering a traumatic brain injury as a child. Greene says it took a long time for Lambert to be able to trust her and believe that she could help.
They did an assessment and talked about services. She connected him with Reinvestment in Communities — Continuum of Care, a housing program, and they began the arduous process of filling out paperwork to apply for housing.
“I thought I’d never get through it,” Lambert says. The timeline is typically about three months. But the process was longer for Lambert, because his Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits stopped because of a clerical error. Then he was arrested, further delaying the process.
After his release, it took months for his Medicaid status to be changed. Then he had to reconnect with the Reinvestment in Communities program staff, and search for a landlord who was willing to work with them.
Lambert was starting to feel as if he may never get out of the woods.
“Getting knocked down is the hard part,” Lambert said. “But you have to deal with it, dust yourself off and keep going.”
Finally, in September, nine months after he first met with Greene, everything fell into place. He started receiving SSDI/SSI benefits, he found a landlord, and he was given the keys to his own apartment.
Lambert said he realized that talking to Greene at the shelter was the first step to getting those keys.
“I hung in there,” he says with a smile. “The woods are my home, but now I have a house.”
Now, after Lambert completes his morning routine, he heads to a Christian ministry to volunteer, and visit many of the people who have helped him. He has even taken steps to become part of a psychosocial rehabilitation center, where he wants to learn how to read and write, and work on budgeting.
“Wayne Lambert is the master of showing what persistence is. He gets back up every time he gets knocked down,” Greene says. “His biggest area of growth has been in valuing himself saying he needed time to talk. Now, he can call and discuss what he needs and wants. He took the chance to walk in when he was ready to make his dreams take flight.”
Pictured above – Wayne Lambert (left) and Jennifer Greene pose outside of the Lincoln Wellness Center, where Lambert first received Monarch’s services.