I may not have known it at the time, but the road to homelessness first began for me when I was sexually molested at the age of twelve. It was that very moment that would send me down a path of self-destruction that would eventually lead me to this point, forty years later.
It was Christmas Eve and I was spending it in a cheap motel room. A bottle of pills sat next to a bottle of vodka on the nightstand beside me. By this point, I had been battling homelessness for years and the reality had long since set in. I was homeless and I saw little hope in ever changing…it had become my life.
An old clock radio, beside the pills and vodka, played those old familiar Christmas carols —my favourite, White Christmas and I’ll be Home for Christmas—providing the only evidence that this was indeed the day before Christmas. In addition, I had placed all the letters I had written to anyone that might care, beside my set of slow poisons. I had decided I was done…I had reached the point of acceptance and I was tired of living this way. I was determined to end my life, and all the pain, the suffering and the loneliness that I had come to know.
I glanced at the radio—it was 9 pm.
In the midst of the physical, mental and emotional chaos that permeated my motel room, I was surprisingly calm. And my decision was final. For me, it was time—now or never.
What happened next can only be described as a God thing.
I poured the pills out on the table, took the top off the vodka bottle and the next thing I remember there was a knock on my door. I quickly turned and looked once more at the clock radio: It was now 11 pm?
I was momentarily disoriented, with no recollection of the past—somehow the last two hours had escaped me. Still, the pills and vodka remained…untouched.
Again, I heard a series of knocks at my door, only this time there was a voice to go along with it. “Housekeeping! Are you staying or checking out?”
Now it was all coming together. It wasn’t 11 on Christmas Eve at all. It was 11 am Christmas morning. With this realization, an unexplainable yet incredible peace overcame me and I knew, probably for the first time in my life, that I would be okay. Despite everything I had done, somehow I knew that God wasn’t finished with me yet.
I cried aloud in response to the voice at the door, “I’m staying!”
Then, I got up, disposed of both the pills and vodka bottles, went to the front desk and paid for another night. That day, there had been no tree, no decorations, no gifts, and no family gathering to fill the room with laughter and love…but as I look back, I can now say that it was and still is the best Christmas I’ve ever had.
Off the Streets
In March the following year, I inserted a key into a door and moved off the streets for good. It had been a long four—almost five years—of calling the streets of Nashville my home.
I still remember that moment I stepped foot into my new place. There were tears flowing down my cheeks, mingled in with a mix of emotions and fears and I had to work hard to convince myself the moment was real. As I sit writing this now, that feeling is as real today as it was three years ago. You see…you never truly get over being homeless.
Such an experience has left an indelible mark on my soul that will never go away. Sure, with time, the scars will start to fade. But it will have forever changed me. Its influence will always be there, affecting my thought process and every personal decision I make.
At times, I still wake up in the middle of the night, in a state of panic and fear… afraid everything will all come crumbling down around me again. I still have moments when I step up to my front door at the end of the day, insert my key in the lock, and then automatically come face-to-face with those familiar feelings of dread as I wonder if the key is going to work, if the lock will turn and if the door will even open.
It’s a horrible feeling, but it is this very feeling that drives me to do what I do with my ministry, Home Street Home Ministries. And it is this experience that has made me the man I am today.
“…Although the memories from those seemingly endless days and nights remain, I choose to focus not on the negative, but on the positive. Not on where I’ve been, but where I’m going.”
The roller coaster ride that is homelessness is a ride no one should have to take. I endured treatment from others that I wouldn’t wish upon any human being, and it nearly destroyed me. But…God had other plans.
Every day, I realize how blessed I was during that time because the Lord kept sending Angel after Angel my way and did so just when I needed them the most.
I made new friends who accepted me for me and all the baggage that came with that. Friends who knew I had nothing to offer in return, who knew that I was lost and broken and who to this day, still stand by my side, encouraging me to put my past behind me and keep moving forward. Plus, I now have the greatest friend anyone could ever have…Jesus!
Since those three years have passed, many things have changed. And although the memories from those seemingly endless days and nights remain, I choose to focus not on the negative, but on the positive. Not on where I’ve been, but where I’m going.
Home Street Home Ministries has grown from a dream written on a napkin in a McDonalds almost two years ago, to the largest in-the-field homeless outreach ministry in Nashville. We are bringing hope to the hopeless and we are truly being the hands and feet of Jesus to those whom most of society chooses to ignore.
I wake up every day surrounded by people I love and who love me back, and I live a life filled with meaning and purpose. Then, I go to bed every night thanking God, and never taking even the most insignificant things we enjoy for granted.
In a way, although I now have a place to go home to every night, I don’t believe that the experience that I have had with homelessness will ever truly leave me. I will forever be homeless in the sense that my past experiences have affected me deeply to this day and I can’t deny that it was by such experiences that I was able to be led to Christ.
So as crazy as this sounds, I wouldn’t change any of what happened in my life for a thing!
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Photos Copyright: nikdoorg / 123RF Stock Photo