homeless Posts

Faces of The Mission :: Thomas

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“I woke up to a girl screaming.” Thomas says. “I sat up to see what was going on, to see where [the screaming] was coming from. She was getting beat on. Two of my friends bolted over to help her. Then, more guys came running from the side and started jumping on my friends. I pulled one guy off my friend. That’s when he stabbed me, twice; once in the chest and once in the thigh. I got a large portion of the blade stuck in [me]. That’s when I really got permanence into the family, though. Until then it was just…I was there, they helped me, they accepted me, they watched out for me, but [the stabbing] is when I got inserted into the family permanently.”

We’re in a bakery at the corner of 22nd and Larimer. Thomas is across from me, mid-sip of his orange juice. “I don’t like being out on the street. It’s a big blow to the pride to ask for things.  I was more or less raised to work for things. I have to rely on the shelter for a lot, but it’s necessary, and I’m grateful for the bed… [But, in a way,] as far as growing up goes, being homeless is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

I sit back and think this doesn’t sound like the best thing to happen to someone. Perhaps he’s joking, I think. I expect laughter to ensue, or at least a smile and a “just kidding.” Instead, his eyebrows are beginning to furrow. He looks up, then to the right. His movements are slow and thoughtful. He’s trying to remember his past, a past he’s chosen to forget.

“[I had] a lot of trauma in my childhood. I never really had a true family. I don’t talk to my parents, my relationship with them is complicated. I have one person I consider family back [home], in Mississippi, but he doesn’t even know where I’m at. [Out here, on the street,] I’ve actually got a family. There’s 10 to 15 of us; it’s a pretty large connection. They’ve definitely made it easier because they are people who help watch your back. Plus, they are people to talk to. You can’t do the homeless thing alone. Being homeless and alone, you go crazy. That’s when you get the people on the sides of the street screaming and [talking to themselves, saying crazy things like], ‘Pumpkins are the reason the government is flying to Africa!’”

Thomas’ comment about pumpkins and crazy people causes him to laugh, at least for a brief second. “Ugggggarrh, that hurts!” he says, grabbing his chest. “Every time I [laugh] it feels like my stomach is being ripped open.”

Thomas pauses, trying to catch his breath.

“And every time I breathe it feels like I’m being stabbed again. He nicked my diaphragm when he slashed my chest. I’m all sorts of screwed up right now.”

He lifts his shirt up, revealing what Thomas calls his “holes.” We didn’t ask to see them, but to Thomas these wounds are not just soon-to-be scars; to Thomas, his wounds are sacraments, remembrances to those around that he is committed, and connected, to something greater than himself.

“You lost everything, and this experience (I point toward the window, to the street) is the best thing that’s ever happened to you?”

“Yeah, just yesterday I lost everything in my storage and I could not care less. It was all material things I lost.”

I take a sip from my coffee. I’m trying to put the pieces together, trying to make sense of Thomas’ experience on the street. I set my latte down. “In losing your material life, you’ve gained family,” I say.

“A true family,” Thomas says.

Faces of The Mission is a blog series written by Jordan Smith, a Next Step Coordinator at the Lawrence Street Community Center, offering insights and real life stories from people experiencing homelessness and hardships.

Faces of The Mission :: Julie

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She ordered a traditional macchiato. We ordered lattes, as is our custom. By “our” I mean Jennifer Fitzgerald and I. We’re both Community Relations Coordinators at Denver Rescue Mission. Jennifer works more directly with our guests, while I work more closely with our Next Step members.

This is my first day meeting Julie. I’ve seen her around, hanging out in our courtyard and eating meals in our cafeteria, but I’ve never spoken with her, and for that reason, I feel a bit nervous. It’s odd to walk up to a stranger and ask them if I can hear their story and take their picture. It’s easier to just go about my day, working my nine to five. But if I only did that, something is lost—a voice, most notably. But also, the opportunity to connect and to learn goes by the wayside and instead two people just go about their daily routine, never knowing what the person has to say.

“Embrace your faith, if you have any” begins Julie. We are at a coffee shop in the Ballpark neighborhood; a cool breeze, coupled with the clamor of nearby traffic, dances through the patio where we sit. “Anyone can be, in a blink of an eye, homeless…” she continues, and so her story begins.

 “[Being homeless,] I’ve never seen hysteria and violence as I have on this scale, and I’ve been subjected to a lot when I was younger… Sometimes just because we are born of blood does not mean that is necessarily our family. I was never told the truth of my life. I don’t talk to my father. My mother passed away when I was 32 and she suffered at the hands of my father. Mother was ahead of her time, she pushed me to the point of liberating myself independently away from my toxic family…I lived with mother [for a while] and we were kind of poor. Father was in and out of adultery, doing horrible things, getting other women pregnant. Mother had the babies at home all by herself, and my mother used to tell me ‘your father’s not right.’ My mother used to abuse me, but I loved my mother. I saw through it for some reason and I never forgave my mother because there was nothing to forgive; she just tried to be the best mother that she could with what we had. I don’t know that there ever has to be a time where I forgive father for what he’s done and destroying mother. Maybe, maybe not, but I don’t think so. I’ve reconciled with him in my own soul… I’m not too ashamed, and I really should have a lot of shame for the way I’ve been treated and for tons of embarrassment, but the human soul, and my new found religion, gave me a tree of love in my heart and life that I knew nothing about…and my father concealed this from me…”

How did you end up homeless?

“I had my near death experience when I was 29…I was seeing a counselor at the time, I was on my medication, sadness medication. I took a whole bunch of pills, I told my son goodbye and I said to God ‘if you’re really real then you know what to do.’ I ingested pills. I went to my bed to lay down and I kissed my son goodbye forever and I prayed for an angel to come and rescue him.

I’m a recovering alcoholic; I drink occasionally when I want to, but the need to wake up every day with that craving is insidious, it’s horrible. I just want to be me, I just want to be humbly me…”

What’s the best, most exciting event that’s ever happened to you?

“Kindness and compassion and realness and sincerity rocks; it lives, it really lives! There’s real people that don’t lie to you like my father did all the time, good people who are willing to give me a break after everything I’ve been subjected to, people who forgive…people are really kind.

When I get off the street I want to be in a cool little apartment with my studies, all my books around me, with cool intellectual friends to replace what I’m missing.”

What would you say would help the most on the street?

“For people to kind of look out for one another, because you know what some people out here are really bad, evil. When you see an opportunity to lift someone, interject; I’m very shy, it’s hard for me.”

Faces of The Mission is a blog series written by Jordan Smith, a Community Relations Coordinator at the Lawrence Street Community Center, offering insights and real life stories from people experiencing homelessness and hardships.

Local Comedian Paying it Forward

For most of us, we have a network of support – spouse, family, friends, mentor, small group, co-workers – we can call on in times of need. These are people we trust and feel comfortable asking for help, regardless of the situation.

For a moment, imagine you didn’t have anyone in your life you could go to for support. Now suppose you find yourself in the midst of a crisis. It could be loss of a job, receiving an eviction notice, being diagnosed with a physical or mental illness, among other things. What would you do? Where would you turn?

In 2010, local comedian David Bublitz found himself in a dire situation. He’d lost sight in one eye and was suffering the intense pangs of depression. Also, the health of his mother was in decline. He felt lost, had abandoned all hope and even attempted suicide.

Feeling completely adrift, David spent most of the next year in and out of the hospital dealing with mental health issues. By the end of 2012, he was feeling better and entered into the developing comedy scene in Northern Colorado. Soon his depression would swing into a manic state. It took four different doctors before David was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, by that time, he’d burned a lot of bridges. His support structure was gone and he was no longer welcome back home. At this point, he found himself with no one to call and nowhere to go.

That’s when David became a guest at Fort Collins Rescue Mission. For about a year, he relied on the support and services we offer. Not only did he receive warm meals and a safe place to sleep at night, he also found hope and a sense of purpose. With encouragement from staff, he decided to “get back out there” and pursue his passion of stand-up comedy.

Fast forward to February 2017: David has been in stable housing for two years and he’s successfully managing his mental health diagnosis. He credits the help he received at Fort Collins Rescue Mission for saving his life and enabling him to get back on his feet.

To show his gratitude, he organComedian David Bublitz_event picized the “Colorado Comedy Showcase” on Feb. 10 at the historic Rialto Theater in Loveland. Nearly 100 guests came out to hear David, who opened the show with his own “greatest hits” comedy set, and three of his stand-up comedian friends. It was a laugh-a-minute show!

David committed that a portion of every ticket sold would be donated to Fort Collins Rescue Mission. Nearly $300 was raised to benefit the homeless and hurting that turn to Fort Collins Rescue Mission for help. David believes that what goes around comes around and he’s thrilled to be able to give back by paying it forward to others in need.

Fort Collins Rescue Mission is dedicated to helping the lost, broken and hopeless in our community. We meet people at their physical and spiritual points of need with the goal of returning them to society as productive, self-sufficient citizens. David’s story is just one example of how we’re changing lives.

 

A Love Made Stronger

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In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I began reflecting on some of the wonderful couples I’ve had a chance to meet at Denver Rescue Mission. I’ve met the Lopez family who just moved into our STAR Transitional Program with their four children – both parents are working and trying save up money. I’ve chatted with couples at our banquet meals downtown who are grateful to have somewhere to go during the day where they can spend time together. Another couple that sticks out in my mind is Denise and Thomas Martin.

The Martin’s met back in October of 2012 and were married six short months later. “We’re always wanting to spend time together,” says Denise.

They’ve had their share of hardships — with Thomas suffering from an eye condition that prevented him from working and Denise battling heart problems and breast cancer. In fact, they were homeless for the first six months of their marriage and had to spend dozens of lonely nights in separate shelters. But, these two always seemed to find a way back to each other and soon they found solace in our STAR Transitional Program at The Crossing. The Martin’s lived at The Crossing for two years and were able to get their lives and health back on track.

Nearly a year after they graduated our program, I caught up with Denise and Thomas to see how they were doing. They were proud to report that they still live in a beautiful two bedroom apartment at Park Hill Station, an affordable housing complex just down the road from The Crossing.

What really strikes me is their steadfast faith. Even when their situation looked dire, they leaned on God, and each other, day in and day out. Denise reports that their health is doing much better and she attributes this to “God’s healing hand”.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Denise and Thomas are looking forward to spending a romantic evening together going to dinner and a movie and are thankful to now have a place to call home.

You can read more about their love story in the Mission’s Changing Lives newsletter and listen below to a piece of our conversation. 

As I make my own Valentine’s Day plans with my husband, Matt, and reflect on our three years of marriage, I feel inspired by the Martin’s love for each other and God and will always keep Denise’s words close to my heart…

“Make your priority God and if the other person is making their priority God, you’ve got a good foundation.” – Denise Martin 

 

Preparing for Denver’s Fickle Weather 

As we prepare for a mid-spring winter weather advisory (can anyone say oxymoron?!), staff at Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Community Center, Lawrence Street Shelter and Fort Collins Rescue Mission are preparing for increased demand for our services.

Guests fill the Lawrence Street Community Center dining hall during a March 2016 snow storm.

Guests fill the Lawrence Street Community Center dining room during a March 2016 snow storm

As you can imagine, bad weather brings a lot more people indoors during the day and overnight. Here is how our facilities are preparing for this weekend:

The Lawrence Street Community Center’s dining room will be open throughout the day Saturday an Sunday. Additional food is being prepared for our normal meal times. Warm showers are at the ready, along with emergency clothing supplies. Staff will work to ensure that everyone seeking overnight shelter has a confirmed place to go.

The Lawrence Street Shelter anticipates filling all 315 beds and mats, as well as 325 mats at the Emergency Shelter (operated in partnership with Denver’s Road Home). Area shelter providers are already talking, ensuring that each provider knows where to send people in the event they reach their capacity.

Fort Collins Rescue Mission is preparing for a very similar demand on its services: increased meals and utilizing all of their available beds and mats. Fort Collins Rescue Mission provides more than 100 people a warm, dry and safe place to spend the night, including overflow mats which will be extended through April 30th.

As you brave the looming elements this weekend, consider how you might help Denver Rescue Mission keep these vital services available within the community. We ask you to visit our Donations page to learn how your generous donations can make a lasting impact at our shelter facilities.