Most of the time it takes years, even decades, for a life to unravel before falling into homelessness.
Not so for Stephen. His journey lasted all of four hours – about the time it takes to get from Quartzsite to Tucson.
Thankfully, his journey out of homelessness was just as timely. But only because of an early Christmas present you helped give him…
“From Homeward Bound to Homeless to a Brand New Start”
Stephen lived in Merced, California, working as a substitute teacher. Each summer, he made it a tradition to visit his son in Texas for a couple of months. But when his son’s senior year in high school rolled around, he decided to make the most of it. He packed up and spent a whole fun-filled year spending time with his boy.
What he didn’t realize was that this would become a one-way trip. Stephen would never make it back to Merced.
“They’ve given me clothes, they’ve given me food, support, friendship… Here you are an individual and you get treated that way. And that’s really important.”
After spending a year together, Stephen and his son set out on one final road trip, to return Dad back home. But it was July and the heat of the road proved too much for Stephen’s aging car. They made it as far as Quartzsite, AZ before Stephen’s car overheated and broke down for good. Fortunately, he had enough money to get his son a train ticket back home to Texas. Plus, his son’s mother lived in Tucson. Stephen figured he could just give her a call for a ride.
The ride did not go well.
As happens often with exes, they got into an argument. Stephen was kicked out of the car in downtown Tucson with nothing but the clothes on his back. It was 108 degrees outside. He had no money left, no plan, no place to stay. He didn’t know what to do next. He had gone from homeward bound to homeless in the space of a day.
“I walked around that night and the next day,” remembers Stephen. “I asked around at a couple of different places. None of them had a bed, but thankfully, one of them pointed me to Gospel Rescue Mission.”
Address in hand, Stephen walked four hours in the sweltering summer sun to find hope waiting for him just inside our doors.
“When I walked up, I was hot, sweaty, and thirsty. I said to Angelo [one of our graduates who has since left the mission]: ’Man, I hope I can get something to eat.’ He said, ‘Sure! You’re going to be fine. They’ve got a bed for you so I know you’re going to be okay.’ I couldn’t believe it. They gave me clothes, food, shelter, support, even friendship. At first, I didn’t plan on staying long. But after a couple of days I started thinking, why not start over here in Tucson?”
“How you gave Stephen the Gift of a New Beginning”
Since that day, Stephen had been hard at work on getting everything he needed to put down roots and resume substitute teaching, one state closer to his son. “They’ve given me clothes, they’ve given me food, support, friendship. The staff is absolutely phenomenal. They saw that I was trying to get this teaching certificate and they wrote letters to help me. It’s not just a one size fits all. Here you are an individual and you get treated that way. And that’s really important.”
We’re happy to report, Stephen is well on his way to getting back on his feet. “I got my fingerprint card, then I got my teaching certificate. I applied at the Tucson Unified School District and I’m now teaching in a whole new city with 89 schools and 46,000 students. That blows me away! I’m tickled pink with that opportunity.”
It’s all because of friends like you.
Stuck with no funds in a strange city, Stephen’s story could have easily turned tragic. But instead, because of your support, there was a hand up waiting for him here at Gospel Rescue Mission. For Stephen, it was like Christmas in July!
But as we celebrate the real Christmas, there are hundreds more who need the same kind of hope and help. The good news is, our $200,000 matching gift is still in effect until December 31st. That means, during this critical holiday season, any gift you give doubles and impacts twice as many lives like Stephen’s.
Together, we can transform hundreds of more lives this Christmas by giving the gift that doesn’t fit in a box! Thank you for the support that provides hope and a hand up for so many, right when they need it most.