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I met Bill Heines while working on a story last November about Chapel House celebrating its 10-year anniversary. Chapel House is a nonprofit organization that serves homeless people in Cayuga County.

On that day, Bill, 58, was moving into the transitional housing facility on Grant Avenue, where he would share a 12-by-12 room with a another man.

It wasn’t the best accommodations, but for Bill it was better than no accommodations at all.

Bill was previously living in Pennsylvania working in a plastics manufacturing plant when he was laid off in 2017. Unable to find work, he could no longer pay his rent and faced being homeless, again.

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Bill Heines heads to Cayuga Community College to use the career center to search for work. With no car, Heines has to rely on walking when he needs to be somewhere.

A father and grandfather but never married, Bill’s family and relatives were not in a position to help.

Through Facebook, he reached out to Chapel House executive director Christine Thornton, who had helped him in the past with episodes of homelessness when he was living in Auburn.

Nicole Caltafano was assigned as his caseworker and with her assistance Heines began working his way through the transition process at the Cayuga County Department of Human Services. He needed medical attention as he had not seen a doctor in over 14 years.

Caltafano was there to guide him and offer the tools and support to successfully regain his independence. The rest was up to Bill.

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Bill Heines walks down the narrow hallway to his room at the Chapel House transitional housing facility after a long day of doctors appointments and job searching.

A high school dropout, Bill worked in manufacturing and as a laborer most of his life. Years of hard physical work ravaged his body. He abused alcohol but now boasts of being four years sober.

Heines was a nervous wreck when Caltafano finally got him in to see a doctor. He was convinced that the results of a physical would bring bad news. He thought for sure he would be told he had cancer. He did not. However, he does suffer from severe neck and shoulder pain due to arthritis, bone spurs and nerve damage. The resulting pain limits his employment opportunities to non-repetitious light duty work.

Heines was a favorite among the other residents because of his happy-go-lucky, outgoing personality. Even when he was down in the dumps about his own situation he always seemed to be able to produce a smile on his face. He became a father figure, counseling some of the younger residents drawing from the tough lessons life had taught him.

In March, Caltafano finally told Bill the news he had been waiting for. She had found an apartment for him to share with three other men. A week later Thornton offered him a part-time job as an overnight monitor at the Chapel House shelter.

“He did everything we asked of him,” said Caltafano.

Today, things are looking up for Bill, who hopes to one day reunite with his son and grandchildren in Pennsylvania. But for now, he’s found a home away from home in Auburn.

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