If you were to pass Clifford Warren on the street, you would not ever imagine what he’s been through during his 56 years. Born and raised in New Orleans, Clifford has experienced a lifetime of struggles that would shatter most people, including childhood abuse, homelessness, unemployment, and mental health struggles. You also would not be able to imagine the incredible 180-degree turn his life has taken over the last few years has been, a result of the support from Ciara House at Catholic Charities.
When Clifford showed up for his interview for this story, he apologized for being a little late, having just ridden his bike across town to sit down and talk at Ciara House, the independent living program that provides the chronically homeless and mentally ill with safe and stable housing. Any doubts about his sincerity would instantly vanish as it became clear that in addition to his affability, Clifford is an ambitious person, full of hustle and a drive to turn his life around and become independent.
“I like that Catholic Charities helps people socially, mentally, and physically. I’ve been here almost two years now. Ms. Brittany (Ciara House Program Coordinator) is incredibly patient and has helped me so much. Sometimes when I can’t make a decision on my own, she helps me cope with skills. This place is also very safe and affordable,” Clifford says.
Ciara House’s 34 residents pay a modest rent, provide their own meals, and are able to live relatively independently. In addition to working with residents on their coping skills, Ciara also teaches them how to manage their mental health, finances and medications. Regular support group meetings also play an important role for residents working to regain control of their lives.
“When you are going through something, and when you want to hold it in, it doesn’t make it better. The pressure gets to you and you eventually burst. The support group here is about how to cope, talk about your life and how to live in a productive society,” Clifford says.
Clifford has his eyes set on getting his GED, learning to drive and eventually becoming a peer counselor. His work as a security guard at three churches has also given him opportunities to develop his faith and build relationships with the parishes. In fact, he was recently invited by the pastor at Mt. Bethel Baptist Church to give a sermon last month.
Clifford added, “When you are trying to fight your own battles, I have found that it’s best to pray about it. God moves in ways you might not expect.”
Clifford’s progress and time with Ciara over the last few years is emblematic of knowing that life sometimes requires a lot of patience and the realization that it is ok to ask for help and you don’t have to go through it alone.