“Being homeless is like being stuck in a trap you can’t get out of,” James says unashamedly. “There were times I thought things would never change.”
For 11 long years, things didn’t change for James. Chronically unemployed and without family support, he became a frequent guest of the Lawrence Street Shelter, often helping set up overflow cots in the winter months. Last April, at the insistence of Mission employees who saw his potential, the army veteran made the life-altering decision to join the New Life Program.
“I joined programs at other shelters, but this one gives you so many more opportunities,” James explains.
Now in his fifth month at The Crossing, the Phase One resident is soaking up everything the program has to offer. Employment courses have rejuvenated James’ dream of pursuing a career in business, while his work therapy duties at the Mission’s warehouse and kitchen at The Crossing have given him a long-awaited sense of purpose.
“Work therapy has done a world of good for me, and I’ve gotten some of my kitchen skills back,” the former cook says. “Tutorials have helped me the most. By giving me an education, the Mission is giving me an opportunity.”
Reflecting on the uncertainty that plagued him on the streets, James says one thing remained constant—his faith. Now in a place of stability, he is expanding his spiritual knowledge in engrossing Bible studies with Chaplain Steve Gonzales. “Chaplain Gonzales has opened so many spiritual avenues for me,” James says excitedly. “If you want to stop being homeless, start with the Bible.”
With each new opportunity, James says he is moving beyond the pain of the last eleven years, and is hopeful his story will encourage others to see the homeless in a new light.
“Homeless people aren’t useless, they just need a new start,” James emphasizes. “This program gives people a choice to do positive things, and keeps them moving in a positive direction; [it’s] definitely working for me.”
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