Friday, June 8, 2012

Custodian reaches goals one day at a time

I met Steve for the first time when was I was showing a PR intern around the Center of Hope. Steve was living in the Project Able dorm at the time, and volunteered to give us a complete tour. After that, it seemed like no matter what time I was at the Center of Hope, Steve was there with his mop. He impressed me with his quiet demeanor and gentlemanly manners. So when a teacher at the high school in Holland Hall asked if one of our homeless guests at the Center of Hope could meet with the kids in his humanities class, I recruited Steve.

I have to admit I was a little nervous about the presentation, which in my mind I had subtitled  “Two Worlds Collide.” I got us there really early. When we pulled up to Holland Hall we had almost an hour to wait before class. To pass the time, we talked. Steve told me his story. 

Here it is in a nutshell: Born in Mississippi in 1961, got a GED, joined the Air Force, became an alcoholic. Took an honorable discharge to care for a younger brother.  Worked, had his own place, drank a lot, became homeless. Same pattern for two and a half decades. In 2008, when he went to the ER with a headache, it turned out that he had a massive brain infection. It took two surgeries to remove the infection and he was put into a medically-induced coma for two weeks. They didn’t expect him to live. When he left the hospital he didn’t have a place to stay and spent the nights at the Center of Hope. After three years in AA and two years in Project Able and working as a custodian, he moved into his own apartment in August of 2011. He still attends AA meetings five days a week.

Where would he be without The Salvation Army? “I would have given up,” Steve said. He said he struggles with his drinking every day. “It was hard to seek help because I thought it was a sign of weakness. But you have to get over that to survive. You can’t do everything yourself.”

After telling his story to the Holland Hall humanities students, one young man came up to Steve, shook his hand, congratulated him for his success and wished him the best in the days ahead. He was choking back tears.The two worlds didn't collide, but came together, mainly because of Steve.

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