Leaving the Streets Behind, Chris Finds Friends in Sobriety

Chris.jpeg

It was the loneliness of the streets that spurred Chris to seek treatment for his addiction and escape homelessness.

He returned to Rosa’s to share his story about how he benefitted from the kindness of Rosa’s visitors to improve his life, conquer addiction and find employment.

Chris was first introduced to heroin by a girl he knew when he was 17. He wasn’t keen on it, but “I’m an addict; I’ll try anything,” he says.

“I tried it, and it was horrible. I threw up, I felt sick; but the thought in my head was just ‘it was too strong,’ not ‘I’m never going to do that again.’ So, a few years later, I tried it again.”

By the time he was 25, he was addicted.

Chris circulated among the streets, jail, and various shelters until June 2015.

“It was horrible…I went to Camden and just never came back because that’s where the drugs were. And I just stayed there.  It got really bad.”

“When I first got there,” says Chris, “I had all these ideas.  I caught on to where free food was, and free clothes were…but then it just got out of control.”

Chris always intended to get off dope, get food stamps, get welfare, get access to a government housing program, but he says, “As soon as I had all those things I just threw it all away.” He kept falling into the trap of addiction.

He had no support on the streets. “You have people that you run with because they need something from you and you need something from them, but really you’re alone. You have nobody at all.”

Fortunately, his family never gave up on him and always supported his recovery. Chris is grateful for that.

He has since learned that “it can make a difference. Things could have been totally different if they weren’t there.”

He realizes he’s no longer alone, and he uses the kindness from his family as inspiration for how he now lives his life.

“All I do is go to work and when I come home, I help other addicts and alcoholics. If I’m out to dinner somewhere, everyone who’s with me is probably one of us.”

He also has a message for Rosa’s supporters: “Don’t ever think that it doesn’t make a difference.”

“Just to experience that kindness – that might have made the difference.”

Donate online to support more visitors like Chris.

 

 

Aida Visits with her Granddaughter for a Safe Space and A Little Kindness

Aida’s descent into the grip of addiction was swift.  In 2003, she was in a relationship with an abusive man with a heroin addiction.  She developed a heroin habit herself and eventually sold everything she had to feed her addiction.  

Not only did drugs consume her finances, but they poisoned her relationship with her 3 kids.  Although it was the loss of her relationship with her children that brought her lowest, it also drove her to seek treatment and escape the clutch of her addiction.

Her kids often tried to help her get clean, but it never worked.  “If they would give me money to buy clothes,” she says, “I would spend it in the streets.”

It wasn’t until she realized the extent to which she lost her family that she began treatment. 

Now, she’s been clean 5 months, and she is grateful to be back in touch with her children. “They found it in them to forgive me,” she says. “It’s a blessing.”

Still, her life is not easy, and access to food and shelter are never guaranteed. 

She rarely sleeps in the same place 2 nights in a row. “I stay at the first [shelter] I see. A lot of them don’t have space.” 

She’s is grateful for places like Rosa’s that afford her consistent food access. “It’s a real struggle sometimes,” she says. “You don’t even have money for anything and these two slices are a blessing.”

She’s also grateful for each moment she spends with her kids and grandchildren.  When we spoke with her, she was visiting us with one of her youngest grandchildren, Savannah.

Aida loves watching Savannah grow up and hopes to teach her lessons she learned from her experience of homelessness.  One of Aida’s fondest memories was back when she had her own home and she longs to return to that time so that her family “can sleep over like they used to.”

It’s the moments she has with her grandkids like Savannah that give her the strength to continue her road of recovery.  

“I only get her for a couple hours, so I’d rather spend it here, in a safe zone.”

We’re always happy to have them, and we wish Aida continued success on her recovery journey.

Support Aida's journey by donating online or become an Official Rosa's Member.

No Longer Homeless, Wayne Pays It Forward

Wayne

We were so inspired to hear Wayne’s story of how our pay-it-forward program helped him get off the streets.

Originally from Vineland, NJ, Wayne came to Philly 3 years ago, when he was just 23, to get clean and off heroin.

“It started real early in life. I started drinking and partying when I was 12, 13 years old…My parents passed away at a very young age and I used that as an excuse to go out and use. I just kept running around for many years from the age of 18 when my father passed away to the age of 23 when I ended up here. Just bouncing from palace to place to place not really knowing how to figure anything out.”

He was living in a New Jersey shelter when he started visiting us for free pizza. Wayne heard about our work from someone he met on the streets. “I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have anything to do.”

Every day he’d walk 4-5 miles into Philly to panhandle to sustain his addiction to drugs and alcohol.  He would regularly visit Rosa’s for a safe place and a hot meal.

Ultimately, Wayne met somebody who convinced him get sober at a recovery house in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.

When deciding to seek recovery, Wayne realized he had grown up to be a person that his parents would not have approved. 

“I had the most kind, loving parents in the world…I wasn’t always a heroin addict or a drug addict or a thief or a cheater. I wasn’t always like that. Those were things my parents never taught me. They taught me to be kind and loving.”

For Wayne, it was also the loneliness and isolation he felt that inspired him to seek help.

“I went to the library, and looked at my Facebook account. I had 1,200 friends,” he says, “and not one of them wanted to talk to me. I got nobody to call, nobody that trusts me. I could keep being miserable or I could try this new thing out.”

Wayne realized he had to make his past mistakes right. “It’s a pretty hard part,” he says. “Going back to somebody and saying, ‘Hey, I stole money from you.’ Or ‘This is what I did to you and I need to make it right.’”

Now, Wayne is ready to experience all life can offer.  He works at a local business in Center City and shares an apartment with someone he met in recovery.  Together, the two help each other stay on the path of sobriety.

Wayne’s also found a new hobby: skydiving. “It’s just a new sense of freedom,” he says. “I never thought I would be skydiving.”

We found Wayne’s optimism to be the biggest change in him since he was homeless, alone and suffering from addiction. Now, he says, “If I want to do something, I’m going to do it.”

Support more people like Wayne by donating online or become an Official Rosa's Member.

Will Chapin: Young and Struggling with Homelessness

At just 22 years old, Will Chapin is one of our younger homeless visitors.

Will’s had a hard life. Though he was born in Northeast Philadelphia, Will moved around with his mom a lot after he turned 5. Now he’s been living in South Philly for the past 2 years. “There’s no real place I’m actually from,” he admits. “[I] just bounced around my whole life.”

Still, he looks back on his youth with nostalgia. “I got a really awesome childhood…just me and my mom.” Will’s mom was a bit of a free spirit and endowed her son with the same bohemian nature, but it’s been a while since Will last saw her.

She married a man in Ohio “and he and I don’t get along physically,” says Will. “Even if I could stay there it wouldn’t work out…I don’t have anyone but my mom and she’s an old lady. She’s just not able to take care of me anymore.”

Currently, he’s been homeless for 3 months. “Usually, if anything happened, I would be able to couch hop and all that,” he says. “But things aren’t like they used to be in my situation.”

Many days, his trip to Rosa’s is the only kindness he receives. For him, Rosa’s “brings hope. I’m not a morning person. If I don’t see the sunrise – I hate mornings. So, you know, I get in here, I’m groggy, I’m starving and I leave and I’m in a great mood, ready to take on the day, whatever things happen. [It] definitely gives me a full stomach, I love your pizza. It’s awesome.”

We’re always glad to provide him with reliable meals, but from speaking with Will, it’s clear that life has gotten harder for him recently and he faces some daunting challenges, struggling with addiction. “Some days it’s just hard to get out of bed.” But Will wants to do the right thing and succeed honestly. “I don’t want to steal, I don’t want to lie, I don’t want to con.”

In fact, Will just got the information for a treatment program and he starts work soon, as a part-time season rehire, at a local restaurant.

“I want to talk to my boss – I have a decent relationship with him – and see if I can” get better.

After that, he's focused on his education and plans to get his GED then attend a community college. “I have a plan,” he proclaims.

When asked about his greater life’s ambition, he can’t help but speak of the inspiration his mom has provided him: “My mom’s an art therapist. I wanted to follow in her footsteps. I love art and I love music. I love anything that provokes emotion. I think that healing through that is an amazing idea.

“I would love be able to help people that were in the situation that I’m in.”

Support young people in poverty like Will by donating online.

Overcoming Homelessness: Nicole Perseveres for Her Son

Nicole enjoying some quality pizza time with her son

Nicole enjoying some quality pizza time with her son

This year, Nicole fell on hard times but remembered an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres show she saw in 2013.
 
“I remember seeing you on the show,” she says, “and thinking that’s so amazing what you’re doing for people and I never thought I’d be one of the people that actually needs the slices of pizza.”
 
Growing up in South Philly, Nicole always wanted to be a cop, but life's challenges detoured her pursuing such dreams.  When she talks about her son, Christian, her commitment to give him a brighter future is obvious.
 
“I want to get a job,” she says, “and be successful for my kids.”
 
“He loves cars,” she says. “He’s so smart; he understands everything.” She clearly thinks he is capable of anything and wants so desperately for him to succeed.
 
Her hopes for her son are evident when she offers a bit of advice for anyone, like her, who’s struggling, “You have to keep your head up.”
 
“Sometimes I’m having a bad day and I’m eating my pizza with my son and I look on the wall and I see the sticky notes…and that makes me feel better when it’s like ‘keep your head up,’ ‘keep going,’ ‘you’re beautiful.’
 
“You just have to take it day by day, and sometimes it’s really hard when you have kids but you can’t give up because they’re watching you.”
 
Through this difficult time, she thinks back on the words of wisdom she received from her aunt: “You have to do it for your kids.”
 
“At the end of the day,” Nicole has learned, “you have to rely on yourself and have faith and that’s it.”
 
We are happy to help Nicole every time she visits, and wish her and her son the very best.  We know they will succeed!
 
Support our work and more stories like Nicole's by visiting us online.