Lehigh Valley man in need of home, job
Louis Matyas has faced an uphill struggle to get back on his feet ever since a car accident changed his life two years ago.
Louis, who was born in Brooklyn, moved with his family to the Lehigh Valley in the early 1970s.
“I attended Shoemaker Elementary, Lower Macungie Middle School and graduated from Emmaus High School,” Louis said.
He also learned carpentry at LCTI during this time and worked as a steelworker when he graduated. Louis spent a period of time in the early 2000s working as a tow truck wincher and a recovery agent in North Carolina.
“I had a girlfriend for two years, played guitar in several bands, enjoyed hiking, camping and playing disc golf,” Louis said.
He returned to the Lehigh Valley and got a job with a construction company. He hiked along the Appalachian Trail and camped at Glen Onoko.
“I enjoyed spending time with friends,” Louis said.
Then, an accident changed his life.
On March 7, 2014, Louis was walking along American Parkway behind Coca-Cola Park after helping a friend with a move. The next thing he knew, he was in the hospital. Louis had been struck by a vehicle – so badly, in fact, that to this day he has no memory of the accident.
He suffered severe injuries to his head, legs and collarbone requiring a year of inpatient hospitalization. His legs were implanted with titanium rods and plates. His collarbone was surgically reconfigured with the help of titanium mesh. Louis also suffered a severe concussion and developed post-concussive syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now 52, Louis is still suffering from the latter two ailments.
By the time he was released in 2015, Louis’s landlords were preparing to sell their Tilghman street home to relatives. Though given ample notice, Louis was unable to find affordable living space and slept briefly in a converted tool shed. Worse yet, his employer lost a new developmental bid and he was laid off.
In August 2015 thanks to an acquaintance, Louis found a new place to live, a room in Jim Saville’s rented house in the 400 block of Hellertown’s Main Street. Louis was friends with Saville’s previous roommate and was helping him move out of the house when Saville and Louis met for the first time.
“I agreed to take over my friend’s spot in the house,” Louis said.
While his housing situation improved, his job woes worsened.
“I found a towing job in Emmaus, but after completing a month’s worth of training, I was let go the week before the first shift was about to start without a definitive reason,” Louis said.
“I then applied for a pest control job and did two months of on-the-job training and a week of work and was let go again.”
Louis has since applied for jobs at diners, grocery stores and thrift shops but has been unable to acquire even part- time work. He’s been able to keep food in his mouth thanks to some occasional part-time work as well as working for Labor Ready, a temporary labor service, on a semi-regular basis, but it’s not enough income to cover his expenses.
Saville said Louis agreed to “pay $100 a week [for board] and that lasted for about a month.”
Louis relies on local food banks and spends what little money he makes to keep himself going – usually spending it on toiletries and other personal essentials.
Saville has done much to help Louis, citing his strong work ethic as a key factor. He bought Louis a car and three months’ worth of insurance and allowed him to pay rent when he could.
Louis still owes rent to Saville, and although he intends on paying him back, it will be hard to do without a steady job.
Other trouble ensued when Louis could not afford to keep his vehicle insured.
While leaving a neurology appointment, he was stopped by a police officer who discovered Louis’s car insurance had expired and his license plate was confiscated. Louis now travels by foot or by bus.
Worse yet, Louis will soon be without a place to live. The home Saville is renting is being sold by its owner and Louis must be out of the house Aug. 15. Saville had previously planned on Louis leaving several months prior, but allowed him to stay so he wouldn’t wind up sleeping in somebody’s garage.
Louis has been looking into many shelters, disabled centers and halfway houses throughout the Lehigh Valley to find a new, affordable living space, but many of these are full or do not suit his situation. Most have long waiting periods.
Economically, Louis may be getting some assistance sooner than later.
A Philadelphia law firm has taken interest in his case due to his head injuries and will represent him in obtaining assistance through Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income.
Until this happens, however, Louis is in need of a place to stay, and he needs a job to pay the rent.
“I’d rather be out in the working world than on the sidelines,” Louis said.
But the system meant to help people in his situation simply isn’t working for him.
“I’ve been through so many applications and so many situations,” he said.
Louis would prefer to get back on his feet and work at an honest living rather than depending on welfare. Until his situation improves, however, the climb back to stability will be a steep one. And he knows he is not alone in his struggles.
“This is a situation that many others are facing,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of people who have it much worse than me.”