Crouched in a corner of the Lawrence Street Shelter, the breakfast crowd long dispersed, shelter regular Michael wasn’t moving. To others bustling in and out of the Mission’s doors, his presence might have seemed strange, even a little unnerving, but Michael didn’t care—he was on a mission to change his life.
“On January 27, 2010, I was eating breakfast [at the shelter] like normal, and then it hit me—‘I need help right now,’” Michael recalls. “I asked if I could wait upstairs until I could talk to someone about joining the New Life Program because I knew if I walked out those doors again, I would die. I might not have died physically, but another day on the streets would’ve killed me in other ways.”
Michael’s determination paid off. By 6:00 that night, he had enrolled in the Mission’s New Life Program, and discovered something that would set the wheels of change in motion—someone believed in him.
“I went and talked to (Intake Chaplain) Jay Earl, and he saved my life; I don’t know what I would’ve done if he said this program wasn’t for me,” the recovering addict says. “Jay Earl believed in me, and he gave me a chance when he had no reason to think I could clean my life up.”
As a program candidate, Michael worked diligently at the Lawrence Street Shelter, happily maintaining the building he referred to as “his sanctuary.” By the time he moved to The Crossing in mid-2010, his spirit had been lifted by the positive, godly atmosphere and role models around him. Men like Michael’s chaplain John Ware and even fellow program participants had given him hope that after years of drug addiction, failed marriages and emptiness, new life was possible.
“The people you surround yourself with in the program can make or break you,” Michaelsays. “I found guys I could laugh with, cry with and pray with, and the chaplains here are truly men of God.”
Like many participants, Michael’s work therapy experience proved an unexpected source of self-confidence. A natural born leader, he quickly became a pseudo-manager in the Mission’s warehouse, helping to direct other participants in their duties sorting hygiene items and clothing. In a few short months, Michael had not only proven himself to his peers, but men he ardently admired like Warehouse Supervisor Richard Yochim.
“Michael was an asset to the operations of the warehouse because of his enthusiasm for the daily tasks at hand, and his interaction with the work therapy team and staff,” Richard says. “He has a smile exhibited not only on his face, but in his actions; he gives respect and deserves respect.”
Shortly before graduating the program in December 2011, Michael found employment at a local Goodwill store. His positivity and work ethic have landed him an incredible four promotions in less than a year, as well as given him an amazing opportunity to “pay it forward” by hiring five New Life Program participants to work alongside him.
“The guys I hired deserve a chance just like Jay Earl gave me a chance,” the Goodwill assistant manager relays. “I couldn’t have made it through the program without all these men encouraging me. My faith is strong enough to believe that God can work in anyone’s life!”
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