Curtis Small, who now lives in Hollis, was born in Trinidad and came to the United States in 1980 as a teenager. As an 18-year-old, he signed up to join the U.S. Navy, serving for two years before being discharged.
When he came back to New York, where his parents lived in St. Albans, he attended a technical institute and worked for four years as a technician at Xerox Corporation. Small then worked for a business services and printing company called Ricoh for nearly two decades.
But the 54-year-old fell on hard times. He developed arthritis in his lower back and spine, and has been on Social Security disability for the last decade. He was living with somebody, but it “didn’t work out,” and he ended up in the shelter system.
“Living in a shelter is an experience, you have absolutely no privacy,” Small said. “To me, it wasn’t that difficult because I was in the military. You’re in a room and you mind your own business.”
Small was homeless for more than a month, but due to his veteran status, he received help. Thanks to an organization called HELP USA, which provides shelter, housing and services to veterans, Small was connected to an apartment in Hollis.
“It makes me feel good, I think this is a blessing,” Small said. “It’s a chance for a second start. I’m going to make the best of it.”
Small said he’s going to try to get his “life back together” by finding a way to get off disability and get back to work. He said HELP USA’s advocacy gave him the opportunity to rebuild his life.
“I’m looking forward to getting a decent job again and hopefully a bigger apartment. I look at it as a start,” Small said. “I appreciate the chance to regroup and start over again.”