By: Katie Sobiech
Not long ago, overnight news sensation Ted Williams, a man who went from homeless-to-Hollywood in a matter of days, captured audiences’ attention with his rags-to-riches story. Soon after, his drug and alcohol addiction and family woes came to the surface and he was admitted to rehab. Now rumors of him having his own talk show are swirling around. But what about our local, unsung heroes whose stories are never told?
There are miracles like this happening in Akron, everyday. I met 15 of them the other night.
They may not be going to Hollywood anytime soon, but they have a new hope and priceless destiny.
Eight months ago Larry was sleeping on top of a picnic table, in a park in Hudson.
“I was dirty, hungry, had no money, and was picking cigarette butts off the ground,” Larry said.
Seven months ago he walked into the Salvation Army.
“I had 75 cents in my pocket and no cigarettes,” he said.
“The only praying I was doing to God was that He would please let me die. I prayed fervently, I prayed hard and I prayed sincerely. The last thing I did before I closed my eyes was beg God to not let me wake up,” he shared.
“Fast forward to today; I live in a house with four guys that I love, who treat me like a brother. I got a little job, a couple bucks in my pocket, some cigarettes, and I’m getting fat,” he laughed.
“If you meet anybody who says they don’t believe in miracles give em’ my number. I want to talk to them,” he said.
Lives are Changing
Springtime of Hope’s (SOH) Permanent Supportive Housing Program for men gives them the necessary time to get back on their feet after rehab.
Fifteen men are currently residing in SOH’s three large homes.
“I feel blessed to be here because this was a real issue for me in the past in my recovery. I would get in treatment and afterwards would throw myself right back into the fire, not really having that foundation or safe environment,” Calvin, one of the guys living in the home, said.
“I take responsibility for what I did, but environment is big because you don’t have the roots yet and then throw yourself right back,” he explained.
This story repeats itself with most men coming out of rehab.
“I came out of treatment and got the job, car and apartment but was by myself and I was my own worst company. In about three months I lost everything. I was miserable. It’s hard to come out of structure to absolutely none,” Paul, another resident, added.
Calvin says that staying at the SOH home is just another step to get him right on track to where God wants him to be.
“God’s awakened something in me again. I have that passion to do the right thing. It’s amazing, some people can’t fathom that I used to do drugs, but I realized that’s not what God wants for us. Jeremiah 29:11 says He’s got a plan for us,” Calvin said.
Products of our Environment
Joe Montana, President of SOH, shared with the men how we are all products of our environment.
“I was raised in a great home with loving parents and grandparents. It’s your environment that helps you achieve the next level in your life. Someone can come and throw a wrench into that anytime,” Montana said.
Many of the men nodded their heads in agreement.
Montana shared how many have had their lives turned upside down by sexual, mental and/or physical abuse.
“I didn’t have that and was very lucky. You can take the same kid and put them here, or put them over there, and it will be a different circumstance for each of them at the end of the road,” he explained.
One Step at a Time
“Tim” has been living in an SOH house for four months now.
“I have felonies, so the job thing isn’t really easy for me,” he said.
But, he finds painting jobs on the side.
“Here I don’t have to worry about a roof over my head, food, paying pills, electric, this and that… All I have to do is concentrate on doing the next right thing,” he said.
He thanks SOH for taking away the extra burdens for now, so he can concentrate on getting work and a car.
“The tunnel looked pretty dark. Then opportunities came. I was able to meet some people through Springtime, make some money, and start paying on the fines,” he said.
The men shared how difficult transferring back into society can be.
“Getting out of the Salvation Army and into the real world took time. Getting back into a new routine and society is difficult,” another resident said.
Having a car available to the men has been a huge help.
Melvin explained that he had previously been in another program which was great, but they didn’t have a car – which makes a huge difference.
“It helps a lot,” he said.
Attitudes of Gratitude
“I’m really thankful for this organization because a lot of people who get out of rehab don’t know where they are going to go,” Paul B., a resident, said “I feel for them because you go through a program and then you’re on your own.”
“I’m so thankful for this opportunity to help me get on my feet. It’s important when you get out to not have to worry about every little thing. To have all of that support really helps get you on your feet and in the direction you’re trying to go. I like the brotherhood we have here,” he continued.
“I’m just happy today – and everyday,” Melvin, a resident, shared.
“I knew someone was praying for me because I wasn’t praying for myself. I came full circle, so I know there’s a God,” Vernon, another resident, said.
“A lot of good stuff has been happening to me. I’ve got a life now, I’ve got a job, a place to live, I’m not doing nothing with my life. For the longest time I had been so alone,” Chad, a resident, said.
“Now I have friends, I’m responsible and working on this growing up kind of stuff. It’s only taken me 37 years to start doing it, but better late than never. I still can’t believe I’m driving a big truck,” he said.
“The support here has been amazing,” Joe, another resident, added.
“The people involved in this program have given me something that I just plain didn’t have,” Mark, one of the residents, said “I have hope now. I have faith. Good things just keep happening to me and the people in this room have experienced it themselves.”
Mark is now working full-time, has a great group of friends surrounding him who he can depend on, and says he is healthy and happy.
“My relatives are starting to wonder, ‘Is this Mark?’ I went to a funeral and they were aghast,” he said.
He believes there is hope now, and that things are good and getting better.
“I had no idea things could be this good. The people here are sincere and uplifting. It’s a wonderful thing,” he said.
He paused, then continued, “I am not using this word lightly… it’s a miracle. It really is.”
If you are interested in this mission and/or becoming a volunteer please visit http://www.Springtimeofhope.com !