My childhood was difficult; I didn’t have a stable home. At 12 I was “adopted” by a gang. I was a lookout, and in return I was fed and always had a place to sleep. I never finished school, but I earned my GED while I was in prison. I turned my back on gangs and drugs after I was released. Instead, I was able to give back to my community by becoming an HIV counselor. I worked with HIV positive people at a time when they had no treatment options. As painful as it was to see people suffering with illness, I knew my pain didn’t compare to theirs.
I had married, but I never dealt with my demons, and alcohol got the best of me. After several years of counseling I could no longer control myself, and the life I was working to create fell apart. I just couldn’t cope with my addiction.
I don’t recall much from that period of my life, but I found myself at the Allentown Rescue Mission, and I found the Holy Spirit. I found the strength to stop drinking, and I found purpose.
I work full-time for the Clean Team. I spend my days cleaning the streets in Allentown, and I love doing it! I talk to the homeless every chance I get, and I encourage them to seek help at the Mission. I tell my story. I want them to know that I understand their situations. I was in their shoes, and I wasn’t able to reach a better place without help.
I think about my grandchildren every day. I try to do right by God every day. I live with other Clean Team members, and we support each other. We give each other strength. Many of the Clean Team men move on to other jobs, but at 62 I am one of the older guys. The Clean Team program has allowed me to support myself as I age, and more importantly, it allows me to make a contribution. I don’t know where I would be without the Mission and the Clean Team.
If you see me downtown I would love to talk to you. I’ll be wearing a blue shirt and a smile.