Featured Story • Amber Yates

Empowering the Homeless: Giving a fresh start to those who desire it

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David was a successful man in the eyes of the world. He had a college degree, a great job, a nice house and an overall good life.

Although not a native Texan, he moved here to take a job in the oilfield, but like many others lately, he was eventually laid off.

He had been drinking on a regular basis since his teenage years; however, he had a tendency to drive when he drank…and get caught.

After his third DWI, David was forced to stay in Texas to serve some jail time and complete his probation. After burning through his savings while staying in a residential addiction recovery program, David became homeless.

He made his way to the Salvation Army in Conroe. He knew that staying there was only a temporary solution, and, after 30 days, costs $7 per day. While living there, he obtained employment in the local grocery store deli.

It was evident that David was really determined to get his life back on track given that he had both attained and maintained employment. Not only that, but his job was over three miles away and he did not have his own transportation.

It takes a tremendous amount of dedication and perseverance to make that happen. Even if he were to take the city bus at $1, the trip would take approximately an hour each way.

Working 20 days per month would quickly total $320 in bus fare and 40 hours per month in bus rides. This information is not to disparage the public transit system at all, but to highlight the challenges David was faced with in order to acquire and sustain employment.

He did what many other residents of the Salvation Army do in the mornings — he headed to the Conroe House of Prayer (CHOP) for breakfast. He continued this habit for a few months, during which he heard messages on the teachings of Jesus.

He also learned about the ministry of Compassion United. Based on his deep desire to make necessary changes in his life, he was welcomed into Freedom House, the organization’s male transition home, which automatically made him a part of the Fresh Start program.

He began participating in Fresh Start University’s empowerment classes, which cover a variety of life skills, as well as helping to change unhealthy mindsets and behaviors.

Fresh Start provided him with a mentor, and that mentor actually had a mentor-in-training shadowing him. Mentors provide community resource information, support, encouragement, relationship and accountability for people like David.

He said that the time he spends with his mentors each week is the best thing he does as a part of this program. David used the community computers at Fresh Start to apply for graduate school at Sam Houston State University.

David also participates in the Fresh Start addiction recovery group. Serving at Breakfast in the Park and CHOP are just of a few of the ways that he and the other residents give back to the community.

David’s time with this ministry is nearing its end. In the fall, he will begin working on his master’s degree at Sam Houston State University. After several unsuccessful attempts to change his probation to Grimes County, he finally received the green light.

Not only will he be a student, but he was also offered a full-time position as a teacher’s assistant in undergraduate classes. As such, he will have a fully furnished apartment on campus as a bonus with this position.

He and his mentors are also making plans to continue to see each other after David moves.

It has been an honor for Fresh Start to partner with David to help him as he helps himself. He has been a perfect example of what a life can become when we invite the power of God to work in it.

Amber Yates is the Fresh Start Program Director at Compassion United. This story first originally appeared in The Point, August & September 2016 edition, issue 11. 

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