Tenant Focus: Maurice Robinson
By 2005, Maurice Robinson had become a triple threat — but not in a sports-star sort of way. His life in a one-bedroom flat in north Oakland, California — where he had lived for eight years — was about to implode. The wild ride that had fostered his drug and alcohol addiction eventually landed him in the Baker Places residential treatment facility in San Francisco. The facility, which normally accommodated recovering addicts for 90 days, agreed to house him for six months.
“My substance abuse had become intolerable, and I knew it was time for a change,” Robinson recalled recently from his cozy unit at TNDC’s Ramona Apartments on McAllister Street in San Francisco.
Doctors at Baker had determined that the then 45 year-old gay man suffered from a triumvirate of potentially life threatening maladies: depression, substance abuse, and HIV or AIDS, which he had been initially diagnosed in 1986. Six months of rehabilitation was a drop in a bucket for a person with Robinson’s troubles, and he was not the only down-and-outer on San Francisco’s gritty streets who needed help.
Baker’s message of tough love, rehabilitating him for only six months, went straight to Robinson’s head and heart, and the message was clear to Robinson: Straighten up and fly right, or out the door he would go, most likely to end up homeless, helpless, and prone to drug use again. So, Robinson took control of his life, and that is how he ended up at the Ramona Apartments, his home sweet home for the past 10 years.
Two weeks prior to the end of his six-month stint at Baker — though he had been given a short extension if he needed it — Robinson walked into the Ramona Apartments building and spoke to the building manager, and several weeks later, he moved in, beginning decorating his new 350-square-foot digs.
The move not only put a stable roof over his head but bolstered Robinson’s soul as well. It wasn’t long before he forged an inner strength to survive that in turn fostered an awakening spirituality. He was, in fact, baptized last year at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, an event that has changed his outlook on life.
Robinson now pays back his good fortune, passing it along to others in need.
The man who was so desperate and so vulnerable such a short time ago is now helping other TNDC residents live to their fullest. As president of the TNDC West Residents Council Association, Robinson strives to assist others with such issues as crime, safety, homelessness, isolation, land use and displacement, aging, and HIV and AIDS Survivor Syndrome.
“I was looking for structure, and being on disability with no job can make you feel like a cancer on society,” Robinson said. “I needed something to do.”
His biggest accomplishment?
Becoming president of the TNDC West Residents Council Association “and being able to help others through my position.”
His advice to others in his situation?
“Take advantage of the opportunities around you. This [the Tenderloin District] is a great neighborhood – lots of history and diversity, and if you look past the dysfunction, there’s a lot of good about it.”
His biggest regret?
“I have no regrets. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and even something negative can be turned into a positive if you use it as a learning experience.”
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TNDC provides affordable housing and services for low-income people in the Tenderloin and throughout San Francisco to promote equitable access to opportunity and resources.