‘Love Beyond’ story series: Homeless at 85 years old
The ‘Love Beyond’ story series highlights people in Minnesota and North Dakota whose lives changed because of your donations to The Salvation Army Northern Division. Love Beyond is a Salvation Army campaign to show those in need that love exists beyond their most difficult situations – be it hunger, overdue bills, eviction, addiction, and other hardships.
Orlando, 85, has survived every harrowing obstacle life has thrown at him. He has lived through:
- Two years of imprisonment and torture in a Cuban POW camp.
- Seven heart attacks.
- Two years of homelessness.
He moved to America in 1980 with thousands of other Cubans seeking asylum from the authoritarian rule of Fidel Castro. At the time, Orlando was in prison for fighting against Castro’s communist regime. He was freed thanks to a deal struck by President Jimmy Carter.
Orlando arrived in Rochester, Minn., through a local program to help Cuban refugees. He was thrilled to be living in America.
“I always knew America was a good place,” he said. “I never believed the propaganda about America that came from Castro – it was poison."
Orlando capitalized on his opportunity to live in freedom in the United States. He would spend the next four decades living an honest life in Rochester, where he worked hard as a janitor, cashier, and retail associate, among other jobs.
He was married in 1984 and has a daughter in her 30s. Sadly, his wife died about 20 years ago.
Homeless and forgotten
Until recently, Orlando was still working hard in Rochester – employed for nearly 20 years as a parking ramp attendant.
Unfortunately, he had to leave the job after he was hospitalized for diabetes complications. Unable to work, he drained his savings account and eventually became homeless.
He would spend two years on the streets of Rochester, in terrible health, unable to afford the vital diabetes medications he required, ignored and forgotten by the world.
“I stayed in shelters a lot and I ate anywhere I could,” said Orlando, who received social security payments that weren’t nearly enough to live on. He would spend each check on hotel rooms until the money ran out, then be back on the streets.
His time experiencing homelessness felt degrading.
“I had always helped people, but now I was in a situation where people were looking down on me,” Orlando said.
Housed and Loved
Orlando’s time on the streets ended when his friend in the Twin Cities found out about his plight. The friend picked him up in Rochester and brought him to The Salvation Army Booth Manor senior housing facility in Minneapolis.
Booth Manor (pictured) is a 21-story building with 157 units of housing for single adults ages 62 and older. Each unit includes a bedroom, kitchen, living area, and bathroom.
Booth Manor is a godsend to Orlando. Now, his social security checks are enough to live on. He is one of 100 Booth Manor residents who pay rent on a sliding scale, which allows him to keep two-thirds of his social security checks to pay for food, medications, and other essentials.
“After two years on the streets, this place is a miracle for me,” Orlando said.
In addition to having a safe and affordable place to live, Booth Manor residents have access to Salvation Army case management services. With the help of a case manager, Orlando now has regular medications, and transportation through Metro Mobility.
“Orlando moves me because he was a vulnerable adult living on the streets instead of the comfort of a home,” his case manager said. “It is very satisfying to see a man who once was in a cocoon of worry and fear become a man who is a respected, honored and loved member of our community.”
Orlando is thankful to have a home and thrilled to live among friends – and it’s all thanks to gracious Salvation Army supporters like you.
“I love this community – I haven’t been living in a community for a long time,” Orlando said. “This place is the salvation of my soul.”