Dear StandUp For Kids supporters,
My name is Jimmy. I am 24 years old and have been homeless in Worcester off and on since I was 15 years old – that’s when my dad left us and my mother could not support my younger sister, brother, and I. So, my siblings and I have been fending for ourselves. I have lived in many places unfit for humans – a semi-trailer, in wooded areas – and in situations that have turned unfriendly, even violent. At age 20, I was surviving by working odd jobs for friends and strangers.
Then I met outreach counselors who told me about the StandUp For Kids Outreach Center. At first, I was hesitant to go, but when I did, I was given a warm meal, clothing, hygiene items, and a list of places to go for housing. I had an outstanding warrant for cashing bad checks after my mother died, so I didn’t try to get a full time job or housing because I was worried that I wouldn’t pass a background check. I kept returning to the Center because it was a positive place with friendly adults, where I felt I fit in with the other youth coming to the Center.
By being in a positive environment, I was starting to feel better about myself. I was able to get some regular work from a temp agency even though I was smoking marijuana and drinking in my free time. Then, the factory where the temp agency was sending me for work started requiring random urine drug screens. The managers liked my work – I was a hard worker and could handle challenging jobs. So, I stopped smoking marijuana because I liked working and didn’t want to lose this job. I continued to work a lot and didn’t miss using marijuana. In fact, I was feeling better; my mind was clear and I had more energy and a desire to work harder.
I was working a lot and not attending the StandUp For Kids Outreach Center. Occasionally I would see StandUp Outreach Counselors downtown; they were always glad to see me and hear how well I was doing. I felt they actually cared about me. They were happy to hear that I stopped using marijuana to keep my job. They gave me hugs and big smiles. The counselors always asked how much I was drinking because they knew it was a problem for me. Once I started, I could not limit my drinks, I would just keep drinking until I passed out. They told me that I was still drinking too much and it was damaging my liver, but they never became angry. They still cared about me, no matter what I told them. I kept busy with work and eventually I was not drinking at all and feeling even better. I had some friends I was paying to stay in a room in their apartment. Life was good.
A few weeks later, someone I knew informed the police about my warrant. I was picked up and I had to serve eight months in jail. I lost my job, my possessions, and my place to stay. I called StandUp For Kids and spoke with Donna. She was very encouraging and told me I was doing well and would be okay after I served my time. Donna and Bob, the Outreach Counselors, wrote me letters while I was in jail. They were very encouraging and it helped me keep my spirits up.
When I got out of jail, I had to go to a drug rehab facility until my probation was over. I wanted to start working again. I had a friend who let me do some construction work with him. So, I am back to working. I am homeless again but I have a few options of places where I can stay. I called StandUp For Kids because they had said they had a coat for me. They gave me a big duffle bag of clothes, new jeans, a bus pass, a gift card for food, and I was able to take a shower. Once again, I am so grateful for the help StandUp For Kids gave me to start over. I am sure, knowing that people care about me, that I will get back on my feet again.
Jimmy’s Duffel Bag of Hope