Editor’s note: This year we wrote a number of stories on the Hospitality Center, HALO and homelessness, but we centered on the lives of four men: Bob Rhodes, Milos Milosavljevic, Mike Ludwigson, and Dennis Raymond. So we thought it would be fitting to check in with them to see how things were going for our last story of the year.
Homeless, jobless and hopeless: Bob Rhodes, Milos Milosavljevic, Mike Ludwigson, and Dennis Raymond spent their winter nights sleeping on the floor at the Hospitality Center at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 516 Main St., a year ago wondering how they could even begin to unravel the problems in their lives.
Some of their problems were basic: access to a washing machine and showers, transportation, having socks and shoes without holes. Others were more complex: access to health care, dental care, the proper medication, education, and housing.
“What a difference a year makes,” Milosavljevic said. “I’ve hurt. I’ve lied. Slept on the street…(But now) I’ve found my God again and I’m at peace.. new family, and new friend’s. I thank everyone that gave me that second chance.”
When the emergency shelter at the Hospitality Center closed its doors for good in March, the four men weren’t left out in the cold. With the help of several community members from area churches and several agencies, all of that has changed for Milosavljevic, Ludwigson and Raymond. The three men now work, have homes, access to healthcare, and hope for the future because of the support they received from the Hospitality Center, Joannie Williams and her husband Rev. Warren Williams, Leif and Candy Peterson, HOPES Center, and the Legal Action of Wisconsin.
The HOPES Center of Racine, which administers the Rapid Rehousing program for the Continuum of Care, helped Milosavljevic, Ludwigson and Raymond with housing piece of puzzle in addition to Legal Action.
Rhodes, however, still battles with chronic alcoholism, and not Alzheimer’s as previously thought. Still, he has found help through HALO (Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization), which helped him get into a recovery program the Salvation Army has in Illinois.
Milosavljevic, his girlfriend Tina Baumann Kohel, and Raymond lived with Rhoades until he was evicted earlier this month.
“I made friends, redefined who my family is… and found internal peace,” Milosavljevic said. “It’s Dennis, Tina, and I against the world, and I’m not going to let anyone hurt my Dennis or my Tina ever again.”
A Working Family
Raymond and Ludwigson work at McDonald’s. Milosavljevic works in Kenosha at Capri Senior Communities as a cook.
“I have eight days off in January,” Milosavljevic said. “I work 16 double shifts next month and the rest are all single shifts. But I love my job and I love the people I work with… will it be a little rough, yes. But it’s all for us here.”
Raymond, who works about 19 hours a week as a janitor at McDonald’s, also receives Social Security.
“They love me over there and it feels great to work,” he said.
What The Future Holds
Baumann often helps take care of Dennis by taking him to doctors’ appointments. This support system — along with the help they received from Williams, the Petersons, Legal Action of Wisconsin, and the Hospitality Center — has been key.
But Raymond and Milosavljevic also know that 2016 will be spent giving back to the community.
“My life goals: help others even more — I still have a lot to pay back the community and I still have an empty void in my heart because I’ve hurt a lot of people over the years and a lot of it I can’t fix,” Milosavljevic said. “But I know I just need to reach out and dig deeper.”
For Raymond, the future is a little more simple.
“We just want a life, to pay bills… and have a little extra to have some fun,” Raymond said. “I want to take Milos out for dinner every once in a while since he does so much for us. We just want to live a better life.”
Editor’s note: We corrected several references that should have been attributed to Raymond and the name of the Legal Action of Wisconsin.