When Robert walks the halls of Marian Plaza, an affordable Housing property of Catholic Charities, he isn’t just a resident heading to or from his apartment. He is lovingly known to everyone as “the Birdman,” a friendly neighbor with a love for music, conversation and, most of all, birds.
Robert – aka Birdman – has had safe and secure housing at Marian Plaza since the fall of 2020, but it hasn’t always been that way. Three years ago, he was in his second hurdle of homelessness. Wages at the bird store he was working at in Englewood were not keeping up with the rising costs of living. Even though he had a job he loved – working at a bird store in Englewood – his wages didn’t keep up with the rising cost of living. Like many people in that situation, he was forced to give up the job he loved because finding a safe place to sleep on the streets at night was time-consuming.
“I used to make $10 an hour in the nineties and that was enough to get my me car, rent and some change. These days, it’s just not like that,” shared Robert.
During the 2008 economic recession, Robert was unhoused for a short time when the place he was living in faced foreclosure. With the few belongings he could grab and the advice from a small community of friends he met on the streets of Denver, he landed on the Samaritan House’s steps where he found shelter, warm food and the many resources that were accessible to him.
Years later, he heavily leaned on updated resources to ensure he wasn’t unhoused another winter. His main goal was to have a safe place where he could reunite with his pride and joy: his six-year-old cockatiel, Abby. He had to make the difficult, but selfless decision to temporarily give her up. While unhoused, he managed to keep Abby safe at World of Birds, a shop in Lakewood where the owner would allow her to stay with visitations until Robert had secure housing.
He applied to as many affordable apartments as possible and checked in on the progress daily. With an average of three-year-long waiting lists around Denver, it was a blessing when Catholic Charities Housing called in September 2020 to share news of an income-based apartment for a lifetime, with his name on it. It was more than a relief for Robert that he wouldn’t have to worry about the stress and heartache homelessness put on his life anymore. His heart mended when he picked up Abby. Thanks to some savings, he left the bird supply store with a carriage, a stand and other supplies to begin their new lives together, in their own home.
“It’s just nice to not have to worry anymore,” shared Birdman.