By Brynn McNally
When he first arrived, Todd Pont thought himself an unlikely candidate to handle the front desk at Warm Shelter in Westerly, Rhode Island, where he has lived and volunteered for the past 19 months. Todd is covered in tattoos, has limited use of his left arm because of a violent confrontation landing him in the ACI for three years, and has a self-described discomfort with social interaction. Yet remembering his first visit to the shelter a few months prior, the staff believed in his potential and gave him the chance to help out at the desk. Now Todd handles the phones and helps out in the main office. For the past year and a half he has been volunteering at Warm Shelter every day, and believes himself a stronger man because of it.
Things weren’t always so peaceful for Todd. Originally from Westerly, Rhode Island, Todd became involved with drugs at the age of 15. His drug abuse continued after a domestic dispute in 2000 ended in violence and gunshots, jail, and permanent damage to his left arm. While his disability necessitated taking painkillers, this accelerated his troubles and an Oxycontin addiction soon became a heroin addiction coupled with previous use of cocaine and crack. After spending time in and out of psychiatric hospitals, Todd became homeless in January 2006. His decision to go to Warm Shelter came shortly after.
“I burned bridges with my family, I was getting out of St Joseph’s hospital, I had no where else to go,” Todd says. Originally his decision to come to Warm Shelter was out of necessity more than desire. “I thought I was going even lower by coming here,” he says, but once he arrived he realized that wasn’t the case. Even though Todd admits “dealing with people is not something that comes easy,” the staff at Warm Shelter encouraged him to volunteer, and each day dealing with people becomes easier because of more interaction.
Todd has not used drugs for 22 months. He attributes his strength to stay clean to his committed work at Warm Shelter, saying “helping out here does give me strength because I’m with people who are positive all the time.” He cites the support of the staff surrounding him as a way to stay strong and focused. “If I need help, they’re there, If I need someone to talk to, they’re there,” he says.
Though hesitant to give advice, Todd says, “you have to be willing to take that first step-getting to somebody that will help you,” and admits he’s still working on bettering himself everyday. He says he does not have the desire to use again and instead is occupied with deeper psychological challenges, which he works on every day. “It’s not easy, you gotta really want it.”
For now Todd is taking it one step at a time, working at Warm Shelter daily and taking a small business management course online. What the future holds is unclear, but Todd knows where he is now is a better place than before, saying with new focus, “I know here I feel like I can accomplish what I want to accomplish, whatever that may be.”
Street Sights wishes Todd strength in his recovery!