When a Home Changes Your Outlook on Life

Living at the Prince George, a landmark building in the Flatiron area that provides affordable housing for people at risk of homelessness, has helped Buddy Jones find some peace.

A transgender man who has struggled with depression and faced a host of difficulties throughout his life, Mr. Jones once thought so little of himself that he didn’t believe he deserved the fresh start that moving into the building would provide.

When he first applied to live in the Prince George in 2010, he dropped out of the process early. “I made it to a couple of interviews, but I didn’t think I was worth anything,” said Mr. Jones, 58, explaining that at the time he saw no point in living, let alone trying to make a better life for himself.

When he reapplied in 2013, his therapist felt so strongly that he should leave his other apartment that she lent him the money to move in.

“I felt like I could breathe easy when I got the keys,” said Mr. Jones, who is now battling cancer. “I thought this was an awesome place. Therapy was finally worth it. It felt like a total clean slate.”

And living at the Prince George has helped dissipate some of the wariness he cultivated for decades.

$497 | Flatiron

Occupation: Coordinator at the Board of Elections
The Mets: Until last year, Mr. Jones also worked in concessions at Citi Field, an ideal match as he has been a Mets fan since he was 8. “We were working, but we could still see the plays on the screens and see them working out in the mornings,” he said.
His new outlook on life: “It’s a definite change from the past. I’m still getting used to it,” said Mr. Jones, who realized that he is often happy now. “I surprise myself every day.”
On feeling emboldened: Mr. Jones recently traveled to Montreal on his first solo trip. “A friend told me, ‘It’s a neutral town. They all support the gay and lesbian community.’” Now he is considering a day trip to Philadelphia to see an out-of-town Mets game.

Having suffered years of abuse at the hands of his father and others, Mr. Jones had attempted suicide multiple times, abused drugs and alcohol, self-harmed and struggled with periods of homelessness.

In 2010, he was coping with the death of his mother and living in his late father’s apartment on the Upper West Side, where he had been abused as a child. Returning to the apartment after therapy, Mr. Jones said he felt such despair that he saw no reason to continue treatment. “After a nice session, I’d go back and it was like being in a bottomless pit,” he said. “Therapy wasn’t doing me any good.”

The Prince George, a grand turn-of-the-century hotel that went through years of decline and neglect, now houses and helps people like Mr. Jones. In 1999, the nonprofit group Breaking Ground converted it into 416 units of affordable housing for low-income and formerly homeless adults, as well as those living with H.I.V./AIDS.

But nine years ago, he wasn’t ready to move in. “I felt I wasn’t worth a new chance. When you’re abused, you think there must be a reason,” he said.

Mr. Jones grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a neighborhood he still remembers fondly. He is a member of a Greenpoint Facebook group and enjoys reminiscing with others about the area in the 1960s and ’70s, sharing happy memories of making pocket money by washing cars with water collected from fire hydrants.

But throughout his adult life, Mr. Jones has struggled with physical and mental health issues, which made keeping a job — he once worked for a freight forwarding company — or an apartment difficult. He had major brain surgery in 1991 for arteriovenous malformation, after which he said he began having problems with anger, paranoia and depression; he has been hospitalized 16 times for mental health issues.

“I was angry at the world. I used to shave my head every morning. I had this black baseball cap that said, ‘Don’t bother me,’” Mr. Jones said. “One day a guy at the hospital said, ‘Hey, give me that hat! And he gave me a New York Mets cap instead. He said, ‘You don’t want people to stay away from you.’”

A lifelong Mets fan, Mr. Jones accepted the trade and with some surprise, realized that he didn’t want people to stay away. Things have been gradually improving since his primary care physician connected him with a new therapist and psychiatrist 14 years ago. They coordinated Mr. Jones’s care and held him accountable when he tried to skip appointments.

“They’re stubborn and tough, just like I’m stubborn. Before, I figured I could get away with everything,” he said.

By 2013, at his therapist’s urging, he reapplied for an apartment at the Prince George. “She said, ‘You’re worth it,’” said Mr. Jones, who moved into a studio that August with his cat, Miranda, a fluffy black-and-gray rescue from an upstate shelter.

“The building has helped me realize that there are people you aren’t best-of-best friends with, but they wish you well,” he said. “Living here has given me a sense of more safety.”

That sense of safety recently helped him come out as transgender, and he legally changed his name from Denise Egielski to Buddy Jones. Buddy came from the character Kristy McNichol played on the 1970s TV show “Family” — “she was like me, a tomboy” — and Jones from Shirley Jones, the singer and actress from “The Partridge Family,” which he also loved.

“It felt so right being here. Everything I did and thought started feeling right,” said Mr. Jones, who describes himself as gender neutral. “I may look like a woman, but I identify with my great-grandfather who was a master woodworker. I put together the DVD rack — that’s when I feel most like myself, doing masculine things.”

He keeps the apartment spare and spotless. Even the cat’s toys are lined up against one wall. As soon as he moved in, he put the table in the kitchen to differentiate it from the bedroom area, and in the last few years, and he has started cooking for himself. Barbecued steak with yams and salad is a favorite meal.

This past year has been a difficult one. Mr. Jones was diagnosed with lung cancer last June. But after chemotherapy, he said, his prognosis is promising, and the process has made him realize how far he has come.

“I used to tell my therapist I wanted to be dead by my next birthday. I don’t feel that way anymore,” he said. “It’s strange, because I’m going through cancer, but I feel happy. I feel better about myself.”

Sahred From Source link Real Estate

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *