My name is Vance. I am 61 years old and have been a volunteer for the past four years at St. Mary’s Dining Room. This is my story.
By trade I am a journeyman electrician. I worked hard. I had money. I owned my own home and paid cash for a one year old car. I had a family. I was a husband to my wife and a father to my children. But I was also selfish. I didn’t realize the value of what I had. Soon enough drinking and drugs took a costly toll on me and my family. By 2001 I had two failed marriages and found it increasingly difficult to function in society. I started going to jail, then prison, and spent the next ten years either in prison or on the streets.
I lived in sheds, underneath a work bench, any place I could find really. One winter I spent my nights in a laundromat in a mobile home park. I slept sitting up against a wall next to a particular dryer because if I hit it just right it would occasionally come on and keep me warm for the next twenty minutes. In the first three months of being homeless I lost 60 lbs.
When I got here to St. Mary’s Dining Room, I wasn’t really concerned if I lived or died. I didn’t care what happened to me. But they did. I have a heart condition and I needed a ride to the hospital. I had an appointment to see a cardiologist but I could not get there from here. I was broke and too weak to walk to the bus stop. In Social Services, Catherine, a volunteer, made a phone call on my behalf to a homeless advocate who came to pick me up and take me to my appointment. That was the first help I ever had. I don’t think anyone knows how much that phone call means to me.
The people at St. Mary’s Dining Room gave me support even during the darkest of times; when I was willing to simply not exist anymore. I was done. When you live like that, homeless and hopeless, for so long you don’t know how to get back into society. St. Mary’s helps you find a way back.
They help you with housing. You can take showers here and you can get medical treatment. They offer dental care. They help you get jobs. They help you sort through the paper work of getting your life in order, getting your life back. They let you get clean clothes and even give you special clothes to go on job interviews.
They will help you but they will not hand it out to you.
As for me, I became connected with the county hospital, housing and am receiving case management. I am in recovery from my addictions. In addition to volunteering at St. Mary’s, I have a job. Today, I can say that I have my spirit back. I feel better about myself. I can look in the mirror and look myself in the eyes. I haven’t been able to do that since before I was a teenager. If something happens to me today I am ok with that because today I’m worth it.
My name is Vance and this is my story.