Samuel, age 65, was born and raised in Norfolk by both parents. He had 3 sisters and a brother although one sister passed away. His father was a pastor. He started doing drugs and drinking from the age of 17 and dropped out of school in the 11th grade. He went to the Job Corps where he got his G.E.D. “I was definitely addicted and used a lot of drugs in my travels.” He was a Merchant Seaman for seven years, spending time in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, California and Ogden, Utah. He returned home and worked at the shipyards and then moved to Philadelphia where his father’s family was from. He got a job as a security officer in a major hotel where he worked for six years. Samuel was married in the 1980’s but it didn’t last long. He had a daughter from the marriage and four other daughters from prior relationships. His oldest is 48 and the youngest 36. He also has 12 grandkids.

Over the years Samuel continued to do drugs and alcohol. “There was a time when I didn’t use and stayed clean for five years but started using again. People always ask me why I returned to drugs. I’d like to say it was some tragic thing that happened or a job loss, but it was just me being me, just doing what I wanted to do at the time. I removed God from the driver’s seat and started driving again.”

The first time he was homeless was after his mother died in 1999 and he lost his job. He went to the Mission downtown for a while and ended up on the streets for a year or so. “I went to a rehab program or two to get myself straight, but it didn’t work … until this time. I came to the Mission seven months ago from Richmond.” He had to have an infusion operation and lost his ability to use his right side. “I thought I had a stroke but it was some vertebrae in my neck pressing against my sciatic nerve. I had to go have an operation. I was in the hospital for about a month, then went to medical respite care for two months to learn how to walk again and talk again. I can never walk the same as I used to, and can’t run, but I am very blessed. The doctors didn’t think I would walk again, but I was very hopeful that I would be able to walk. God is so good.

When I got sick I basically lived by myself in Richmond, but my relatives said it was time to come home. It had been 17 years. They came and got me and I stayed with my brother for a while, but decided to go to the Mission again. I knew they could help me with housing. I tried the Salvation Army but they told me I was too old. I was 64 at the time. That was their limit. I didn’t know the Mission was here and my brother’s church is just around the corner so he brought me here.

I learned a few things about helping people here. I feel a whole lot better than when I first came. I didn’t know what to expect because the Mission downtown was so different. I needed to get back in touch with myself. I got a security job at Military Circle Mall and eventually started feeling better and better about myself. I just feel like a brand new person. You help people here and that’s what I want to do. A lot of homeless people come into where I work and I find myself buying them lunch. I’m a better person than I was. I’m clean now and am in the process of getting housing. I’m just waiting for my lease to be approved. I’m glad I am here because it’s speeding things up to get housing. Without you guys. I don’t know where I’d be.”

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