Off the Streets and Into School

A little more than a year ago, a traffic ticket started a cycle of events that would transform Paul’s life. Homeless and broke when he received a ticket he could not afford to pay, Paul was given community service at a local ministry as an alternative to payment. It was this ministry that referred him to SAVE, Inc.

“I was at the end of my rope when I found SAVE,” he says. “God led me where I’m supposed to be. It was God who helped me change and (the ministry) and SAVE, Inc. are the hands of God.”

Paul received and has maintained stable housing through SAVE, Inc.’s Rental Assistance Program. When asked what stable housing has done for him, Paul stammers a little and says, “My Lord, it’s a 180-degree change. Amazing is the word that comes to mind — it’s almost impossible to quantify.

“Homelessness is a matter of survival and there is always one way that I know how to make money — selling drugs — which interfered greatly with my recovery,” Paul explains. “With housing, I have stabilized recovery. Instead of worrying about survival, I can focus on staying clean.” Part of his focus has been attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings, sometimes up to twice a day.

Paul says he used to hope to be a forklift driver, but after taking a career test, he was encouraged to enroll for college in order to become a drug-treatment counselor. “When I was homeless, I never would have entertained the thought of going back to school,” he says, astonished by the changes over the past year.

In addition to attending school, Paul volunteers at the ministry that brought him to SAVE, Inc. “I spent years dragging people down with me, but now I have the chance to give back.”

While he builds his professional life, his personal life is also a work in progress. Paul says that most of his family is understandably waiting for the “other shoe to drop” — for him to start using again. His years of drug use and bad behavior wore his family out, he says, and though it is taking time to convince his family that he is determined to stay off drugs, Paul has faith that those relationships will eventually be repaired.

“My mother supports me 100 percent, though,” Paul shares. Over the past year, the two have had the opportunity to rebuild a strong relationship. “My mom has spent 35 years feeling guilty for my problems. She thinks she must have done something to cause my drug addiction. We talked for hours (recently) and I told her that she was not to blame for my drug addiction. I got on the wrong path and it was not her fault.”

Sadly, Paul’s mother has terminal cancer. Yet, he says that he is so grateful that she got to live to see him clean and begin the process of building a new life for himself.