Donald’s childhood was not fair. His step-father was addicted. Every time the welfare check showed up in the mailbox, his step-dad would be the first to grab it, using all of it on drugs. “When I was 18, I joined the Air Force,” says Donald. “But only because I wanted to get out of the environment I was in.”
Donald found success in the military. He progressed up the chain of command, becoming a sergeant. But during that same time, he was smoking marijuana, popping pills and living a lifestyle he knew all too well, from his step-dad. When Donald got out of the Air Force he went home and lived with his mom.
“Six months after I moved in with her, she died,” he says. “I didn’t grieve; I didn’t try to be strong. I went off in my own world, and I went out of control.”
Donald started using crack cocaine. For the next 33 years, when he felt alone and weary, he turned to drugs, causing him to go in and out of homelessness. “One day it hit me … I’m going to die,” says Donald. “That wasn’t something I was prepared for. There was a lot of people out there who were disappointed with me—my mom, my sister, my kids. One day, I decided enough was enough.”
The day is etched in Donald’s memory. “It was April 15, 2018,” he says. That’s the day he began looking for help, and the day his sobriety started. As a veteran, Donald has access to several services, knowing that, he began calling around. “Everywhere I called, they told me that they were full, that there’s a waiting list. But I didn’t have anywhere to wait. I was on the street.”
On April 21, Donald found Next Step, a service provided by Denver Rescue Mission that offers men an opportunity to create a tailored path toward permanent and sustainable living situations. Each Next Step community member is paired with a case worker, assigned a permanent bed and expected to fulfill community involvement hours, such as helping to clean up after meals. Members also work closely with their case workers to prepare an individualized plan suitable to their specific needs. For some, that is a long-term rehabilitation program. For others, it’s transitional housing or moving back in with relatives. For Donald, he and his case worker have located a program that will provide him with affordable housing.
“I should be accepted in the program in the next few months,” says Donald. “For now, I’m just thankful for Denver Rescue Mission. I’m here in Next Step working with my case worker, working a full-time job and saving money.” Donald has also been working on one more thing, too, his sobriety. “I’ve been sober for over four months!”