I’ve never been a simple person. My whole life has been about all the things I wish I could have done or the things that I want to be. My passions drive me and I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have the energy and desire to be the best that I can be. I became homeless when I was 19, and my whole life changed from there. When I got the eviction notice, my heart sank. I had no idea how I had gotten to this point in my life where I no longer had a home. I lost my job, was doing drugs and drinking, and couldn’t keep up with my finances. I felt like a huge failure, someone that I didn’t ever want to be. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone because it was so embarrassing to know that I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t even tell my grandfather, whom I had a strong relationship with and who taught me how to survive and be prepared for whatever life threw at you.
When I no longer had a place to live, I had to camp out in the woods. Although I wouldn’t even call it camping. I had no tent, no basic supplies, and every night I was afraid to fall asleep. I had no sanctuary because of what I had done to myself. I would lay awake at night feeling guilty for what had happened to me, and felt like I had no control over my own self. I woke up one morning, and I decided that I was going to make a change. I knew that in order to be the person that my grandfather always knew I could be, I needed to start acting in my own best interest. It was incredibly hard to quit the drugs and the drinking, but I did it. There were some obstacles that were in my way when I was trying to get clean. I had lived with some friends for a while when trying to get back on my feet, but they only dragged me back down. I fell into this spiral where it felt all too familiar. We were partying, doing drugs, and I wasn’t sure who was actually paying the rent. I decided that it was time that I moved back into the woods, knowing that I needed to make a change in my life.
The best part of my life came when I got a job at a local restaurant. The owner, a man who had a lot of money to his name, was always generous with me. I figured that he was like this because I work harder than anyone I know. I never miss a shift, I never come in late, and I’m one of the best workers at my job. I spent a long time saving up for things that I desired, but I never blew my money on pointless things. When I decided that I wanted to buy my partner something nice, my boss gave me a bonus out of his own pocket. I knew that he didn’t do this for everyone because he valued hard work. He knew how important it was to me to have an anniversary gift for my partner, and he appreciated what I could do for his business. I am working my way up to higher level positions at the restaurant, and am incredibly passionate about working there. This job has saved me in more ways than one. I am able to save up money, even now that I am living in stable housing with a roommate, and I can have nice things, even though I don’t consider myself to be a materialistic man.
The homeless community has this stigma associated with it. The ‘image’ they call it, consists of the stereotype that people who are homeless have to carry around. Even though I’m not homeless anymore, I still carry around reminders of my life as a homeless person. I still have bad hygiene and greasy hair. Not knowing when you are going to shower during the week makes you put other things first in your life. It sickens me to know how other people in La Crosse view and treat the homeless community. They say that they want to help you, and they think that they know how they can help you. But they can’t because they don’t understand what it’s like to be homeless. Half of these people have been spoon fed from pappy’s gold mine for their entire lives. They don’t know what it’s like to struggle like I did, and like many others do every day. If you’ve been handed a silver spoon, don’t just throw it away. The housing program will try to put you into a home, and then leave you there without checking in or making sure that you are still going in a good direction. We need people who are truly passionate about helping the homeless community in order to actually make a difference.
Let me tell you something… I think deeply about everything that I do. I never make a decision without fully thinking through things, and sometimes I overthink when I shouldn’t. I have worked hard every day in order to overcome my demons. They have haunted me for such a large part of my life, and I feel relieved to know that I beat them on my own. I did this through the three Ds that I live my life by: dedication, desire and determination. I survived an abusive household with my stepdad and mother, I’ve survived an alcoholic grandmother, I survived living in the woods when I didn’t know if I would wake up the next day, I survived living with the stigma of being homeless, and I beat it all. I use my philosophies every day in order to make a better life for myself, and there is nothing that I would change.