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.”