A Journey to Sobriety


Robert ‘Bob’ B. is a homeless alcoholic surviving on the streets of Rochester, N.Y. Bob turned 49 in October and has been an alcoholic for roughly 30 years and homeless for over 9 years. For breakfast he has a “5 for 4,” $5 for 4 beers. He’s been married once to Tina “The Nut,” and wears a black ring to remind himself to never marry again. He has three daughters, a son, and a handful of grandchildren that he gets to see on Sundays at Christ Church during an open soup kitchen where they volunteer. The City of Rochester is Bob’s home. The Genesee River Trail is his favorite view of the city, St. Joseph’s Park is his sanctuary, and the Transit Center is where he goes to warm up. Majority of Bob’s day is spent collecting cans and bottles and recycling them for cash; he also receives welfare. He prides himself on being the most well known man on the street and is constantly greeting others as well as being greeted himself. He believes, “I will never die alone.”

Bob is desperately struggling to get sober so he can work as a drug and alcohol counselor. In order to do so, he needs to be sober for 6-8 weeks and complete 13 hours of community service. The longest he has ever been sober was for 6 years, from 2003 to 2009. He has tried admitting himself to a detox center, but was rejected. Bob is not a senseless drunk. When he speaks, though his words may be slurred and his articulation may be flawed from not having any teeth, he speaks with intention. While looking out at the Genesee River, smoking a used cigarette, he says, “Keep your life moving forward. I’m stagnant…I slept in a parking garage last night because it was fucking cold.” He also struggles with his sense of purpose and prays to God every morning, “If there’s a reason for me to be here, tell me! Or take me back.” Among his friends, Bob is trusted and cared for. His buddy Chris believes that Bob’s alcoholism is worse than his and upon leaving said, “Watch out for him while he sleeps, he’s worse than me. His brain is liquid.”

Recently, Bob had been sleeping at St. Joseph’s Park on a cold slab of masoned stone but has since moved to a two-man tent, with his friend Kurt, in the Abandoned Rochester Subway.