Manny Nanez greets everyone he meets as he walks around Capital Studios. As a Community Engagement Specialist, he’s constantly looking for ways to help others. He even delivers food from the food pantry to his neighbors through his work with Foundation Communities’ Supported Employment program.
You would hardly know it, but Manny has serious health problems. He’s on the waiting list for a new liver because the one he has been living with for almost 63 years is failing. He attributes that to his struggles with alcoholism, which also caused him to become homeless.
“I was lost,” said Nanez. “I had a rupture in the inside of my abdomen due to my liver damage.” Manny says he didn’t know it, but he was also suffering from depression and brain damage. In 2014, he was fortunate that a cousin found him and recognized that he needed help. His relatives took him to a hospital. “I was constantly bleeding (internally). How they stopped it, I don’t know. All I know is, I ended up in ICU and I went into a coma.”
When he came out of the coma, Manny’s relatives put him in a nursing home. His time there had a deep impact on him – the support of family, having nurses care for him and becoming friends with other people who had health problems worse than his. Manny decided he would get to work to regain his ability to walk without assistance. He succeeded. Then, he started encouraging other patients.
“I was going to people’s rooms that were in wheelchairs talking to ‘em, telling them if I did it, you can do it,” said Nanez. “My life, I know what I’ve done, but the only way to fix it is to go forward.”
With the improvements to his condition, Manny left the nursing home and moved into his sister’s home. While he was glad to be reunited with his family, Manny felt it would be better for his mental health if he lived on his own, as part of a community. In 2014 he applied for residency at Capital Studios, a Foundation Communities’ community for single adults in downtown Austin. Three weeks later he was preparing to move in.
At Capital Studios, Manny stays busy, attending therapy sessions and classes on mental health, chronic illness, yoga and meditation. In his free time he goes for walks to his church, the capitol building or UT. Staff at Capital Studios check on him regularly and they’ve helped him get grants for free transportation to his many medical appointments and other medical needs. He really appreciates the flexibility of the Supported Employment Program. “That’s what keeps me going. I have to be busy,” said Manny. “And, me doing the work that I do, it gives me more faith to keep on living because, I’m not just feeding the people, to me it’s an honor to give to people that are hungry.”
The threat of liver failure still looms large. Manny keeps an emergency transmitter around his neck to call for medical assistance if he needs it. He’s now sober. As for depression, he says all the support he gets at Capital Studios has been like medicine for that.