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Hope for the Homeless

CHARLIE

Hello. My name is Charlie. My dad was an engineer. My mom was a teacher. I grew up living the good life. We had a nice home, cars, everything we needed. My parents sent me to private school. I went to a private college. I was an athlete. I played basketball and ran cross-country. I was at the top of my game.

I followed in the footsteps of my father. He seemed to have a good life. I became an engineer. I went back to my hometown and worked as an engineer, building roads and bridges. I started a family. I had four beautiful, amazing children.

When I was in college there were barn dances that my friends and I would go to. But of course, we had to have some beer to loosen up before the dances. Otherwise we were too nervous. As I got older, I saw alcohol as a way to loosen my nerves at the end of a long day. Sitting at the desk day after day, working for bosses who demanded a lot, was stressful. Then I'd go home, and the family pressures were also tough. It all got to me, so I'd loosen up with a drink or two. No big deal.

As I got older everything became a reason to drink. Family celebrations, I'd drink. Every evening I had a drink or two just to loosen up. Hard times? A few drinks would make me forget. And a few beers were always a great way to enjoy the weekend football games, even when my team was losing.

My liver started to give way. My health started to deteriorate. I became skinny. My face became long and yellow. My back was not strong like it used to be. But the bottle was my best friend. It made the pain go away. I worked until my body became so unhealthy I could work no longer.

Then I had to face my pain and my failures even more. I was bored. I was lonely. I went for treatment to get my life back together and I was successful for 6 months. I went back to work. And then back to the bottle. Life was too hard. The bottle helped me deal with everything.

My wife and kids are great people, but they couldn't take it anymore. Eventually my wife divorced me. I can't go get help again. I can't leave my bottle. It breaks my heart to live on the streets, but I have some good friends who keep me company. It’s not the life I would have chosen. I miss my family terribly. There are good people from the neighborhood who are kind to me but I also get in some pretty tough situations. Winter is really hard. But I make it. Me and my bottle. My name is Charlie.


JULIE

Hello, my name is Julie. I've always been a little bit strange. I've always had a hard time making friends. I don't talk a whole lot, but when I do, I mostly talk to myself.

When I was in school, kids would make fun of me and call me “mental”. I don't know if they meant I was mentally retarded or just mentally strange. But they weren't wrong. I just didn't fit in. I didn't look right. I didn't feel right. I'm not right.

I think I'm pretty smart. I understand a lot. I know a lot and I like learning new things, but I don't know how to do well on tests, so school had always been hard. I didn’t relate well to teachers, so as soon as I could, I dropped out of school. And because I was so strange I couldn't hold down a job.

It hurt really bad to be me. When someone offered me drugs I thought, “What could it hurt? Maybe it will help me forget the pain.” Drugs became my best medication. They helped me forget my pain, my problems, myself.

My parents didn't want me living at home anymore. I was too much of a problem. I wasn't helping with the bills, I couldn't hold down a job and I was using drugs. I can see why they didn't want me. Who would?

I started living under bridges, finding any place I could, just to stay alive. I would dumpster dive for my food and for my clothes, basically for everything.

There's a church that offers breakfast on Saturday mornings near the old laundromat downtown. I like being with them. Sometimes they give me clothes and extra food for the next couple of days. They treat me like a real person. That gives me reason to move forward into the next week. I've tried to go to their church, but I just don't fit in. I'm too strange. I stink, and my clothes are dirty. If there's a God out there, I think He is like those people. Maybe he loves me too. My name is Julie.