Refugee defies odds and finds happier home

There was a time when Million didn’t want to live. At 26 years old, the Ethiopian native’s life drastically changed after a 10-year fight with a deadly virus led to a rare disease of the brain, stripping him of the ability to walk and talk.

“Even the doctors didn’t know if I was going to make it past a couple of weeks,” said Million from his apartment in downtown Denver. “I didn’t want to be alive anymore.”

After intensive therapy and time, Million defied the odds and slowly recovered from the debilitating effects of PML, called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. Still, he left Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora bound to a wheelchair.

Lacking an accessible apartment, Million had to stay in a motel near Interstate 70 and Peoria Street, a busy intersection.

“It was my first time being in a wheelchair, so I didn’t want to get out. It was hard to leave to eat and the traffic was busy,” he said. “I was really depressed.”

Some friends pointed him to Archdiocesan Housing, which provides affordable, service-enriched homes for individuals and families. Million applied to stay at Cathedral Plaza, one of its 28 affordable properties. Within days, he was approved for an accessible unit on the third floor. He moved in January 2016.

The conveniently-located downtown complex made it easier for Million to get food, access transportation, meet new friends, and start to live a more normal life. Because of access to the bus, Million was also able to find work. He was soon hired to work during sports games and concerts at the Pepsi Center and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Million spends time at his first spot, the balcony on the 11th floor of the Cathedral Plaza, located in downtown Denver.

“I just feel like it’s been an amazing experience living here,” said Million, now 28 years old. “I think finding a place and getting a job helped me get a little stronger. It’s worked out now to where I’m happier.”

The friendly staff is a huge support to Million, who was uncertain about living in a senior complex. The 11-story building has 154 units designed for senior living.

“I didn’t know how they were going to receive me, but everyone treats me like I’m one of their sons. The community is just great.”

As a young boy, Million experienced tragedy when his father was killed during the war in Ethiopia and he was separated from his brothers after his mother died from an illness. He moved to live with his aunt and uncle and came to Colorado at age 13. Now Million has found renewed purpose in being a father to his 6-year-old son who lives in Iowa. He also has plans to go to college and continue to volunteer at Children’s Hospital to help others who are facing similar challenges.

Thinking back to his time in the hospital, Million said, “God said that it wasn’t my time.”

 

 

 

 

To learn more about affordable housing options across the
Front Range region, visit archdiocesanhousing.org
or call (303) 830-0215.

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