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Norris Johnson gets the keys to a new home and a fresh start

Norris gets a new homeThe gleeful smile on Norris Johnson’s face says it all as he clutches a set of keys.

Thanks to assistance from Monarch staff, Johnson, 37, moved into an apartment of his own in Moore County in mid-December. He’d been homeless for the past five years.

In November, Stephanie Stephens, a Monarch program manager for individual support services in Region 4, received a referral from a substance abuse program in which Johnson was participating.

“He was homeless, and they were trying to find a solution to get him off the street,” Stephens said.

Johnson felt that his homelessness was an obstacle to his sobriety and mental health challenges. The solution came in the form of a targeted residence program, which pays 80 percent of housing costs for residents.

“It’s based on a percentage of income,” Stephens explained, “so it’s reasonable.”

Stephens submitted an application to the program on Johnson’s behalf. Additionally, Vaughan Lofton, a residential support specialist, was assigned to work with Johnson one-on-one. Together, they worked on Johnson’s goals of finding housing, improving mental health and learning how to manage a budget.

Meanwhile, Stephens connected Johnson with other resources in the community. He got food stamps from the Department of Social Services. From the Local Coalition for Human Care, he received clothing and other items.

Stephens also helped Johnson find donated furniture for his apartment. Another agency helped Johnson turn on the electricity. A mattress company in Southern Pines donated a bed.

“He doesn’t have to worry about sleeping on a couch behind a building anymore,” Stephens said.

Stephens worked hard to expedite the process of getting Johnson into an apartment.

“I pushed,” Stephens admitted. “I personally did not want him to be in that situation. It was near Christmas, and it was getting cold.”

Stephens and Lofton continue to work with Johnson, who is doing well.

“I’m very, very proud of him,” Stephens said. “I think he has the resources in place to help him be successful.”

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