“I started washing dishes here two years ago when a friend got me into the Second Chance program. I got a job, got off drugs, got my license and paid my child support. The program works. I went into the military after high school. I got in a little trouble there and got put out and my life went downhill. I found out I could sell drugs and make money on the street and did that for about 10 years. I could go outside and make $20 every ten minutes or I could make $5-$10 an hour on a job. Do the math. I had to eat and didn’t want to live under a bridge, but it was a dangerous life. People rob you and you are always in trouble. I knew I was wrong but I didn’t care. I would sell drugs to a brother, sister niece, nephew because I was addicted to the money. The more money you make, the more money you need so the more drugs you have to sell. I blew all of that money. I did a little prison time, too. You don’t get rehabilitated in prison. It just makes you more creative and you think no one cares. You want to make enough money to get above everything else and you don’t care who you hurt. That was my thought pattern.
I am thankful I got in the program before I did anything else that put me further back. It would have been easy to go back to what I used to do but I had to look in the mirror and say this is on you. No one is going to prison for this but you. I wish I could have told myself that 20 years ago. I knew but I wasn’t consciously thinking because I was making fast money.
I want to get stable. I am getting a bank account and a car. I am going through Housing First to try to get a place of my own. I live with my mother now. Back then I could do what I wanted to do. Go out of town and stay three or four weeks in a hotel room. Now I have to budget for gas in my car but I am so grateful.
I have two boys. They are in trouble, too. I am trying to guide them a little bit and show them a different way. They see I have changed. When I was on the streets, they saw me doing that and I always had money to give them. Now that I am earning a check, the money has to mean something. I am busting my tail to work for it. I also clean yards on the side. It feels so much better to get paid and then give my kids some legal money and live on what I make. I am showing them a different way.
When I came here I was skeptical and uncomfortable but they loved me anyway. It feels better to not have to look over my shoulder every day and not worry about getting caught by the police or going to prison. I have my pride back and don’t have to duck and dodge. When you are down like that people look down on you and think you will never change. But there is a God and He looked out for me. I know that someone else in this world loves me and sees me as who I am now instead of who I was. I had a second chance and I am so thankful for the ones who gave it to me instead of locking me up. You have to stand on your own two feet and doing the right thing gives you peace. I am back to me now.”