Wesley was raised in Virginia Beach with two half-brothers. He graduated from Green Run High School and went to college for a bit. “I partied too hard and dropped out.” He didn’t do drugs in high school or college; not until later. He tried to go to community college for a while, but mainly he worked. “I’ve been cooking for 23 years at different restaurants.” He was the Kitchen Manager for Keegan’s Irish Pub, cooked at hotels at the Beach, then moved to Richmond where he worked at a few French places and Millie’s Diner, a famous place that is on the Dives and Diners TV program. “An amazing experience.” He returned to Hampton Roads because, “I had some trouble up there and wanted to be with my family.” He was never arrested, but got into drugs and alcohol in his early 20’s and became addicted to cocaine. He never married, but in the last four years, “I’ve lost four children and a potential grandchild. The first child was with my girlfriend who was six months pregnant and lost the baby in a car accident. I’ve always wanted to be a father and have a big family, but was trying to rush into it with the wrong women. I had another child that was premature and only had two weeks of life. That was about five months ago.”
He had one run in with the law but no jail time. “I’ve lost many jobs because of drugs and alcohol and my parents were over dealing with it, to a certain degree, and showed me tough love. They loved me but said, ‘you have to go. You have to find your own way.’ ” This is his second time at the Mission. The first time was about three years ago for about eight days. “To be perfectly honest with you, I could not stand it. It was the worst place I could imagine. The fact that I was homeless, and I got extremely sick when I first got here. I haven’t been that sick in years. It was a struggle being sick and being homeless and the food wasn’t that great. It is exponentially better this time … so much better. I went back out there and thought I could handle it. This is the last place in the universe I wanted to come back to, but it got to the point I didn’t have much of a choice. I moved in with my brother for a while, but drugs and alcohol took a hold of me again. This past time I was with this lady and I was sober for a while, but things started happening and we started to use again and it just spiraled out of control. She didn’t see anything wrong with what we were doing, but I couldn’t do it. I was on the streets for about a month. A friend let me sleep in his car, and I was sleeping at Mt. Trashmore for a little bit, but it started getting cold and he said, ‘You can’t really sleep in my car anymore.’ I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was afraid of being out there, and it just scared the hell out of me, so I said ‘just bring me to the Mission.’ That was in early October.
The second day I was sitting outside smoking a cigarette in the morning after breakfast and one of the kitchen staff, Rev. Jordan, came to me and said, ‘young man, can you help me out in the kitchen for a little bit?’ I was taking some trash out and then he said, ‘You can help us put an order away,’ and I like to cook so I said, ‘I would love to volunteer back here.’ He said, ‘talk to your Case Manager.’ I did and he said, ‘come down here at 3:30 in the morning.’ I did that every day for about 40 days. I didn’t want to spend my time out there just staring at the wall, so I tried to spend as much time as I could back here (the kitchen), and it’s wonderful. I just came on the payroll a week ago. I cooked breakfast and dinner, then Mr. Crawley talked to me about cooking breakfast on my own and I did that. Things are really starting to look up. The Mission has helped me find myself. It’s helped me find God. It’s made me whole. I’ve never felt that way before. It’s an amazing feeling. When I left I still had my friends that I’ve had since high school. They were still using and things were kind of coming to a head out there. I’m not a preacher, but I told them what was happening to me in here and they said they were proud of me. I’ve actually talked to my ex that I had to leave for a while. We got some closure in some things.
I knew the Lord before I came here, but I wanted to do what Wesley wanted to do. I almost felt like He’s been waiting for me this entire time … all you gotta do is listen. I came here and started to pray and Rev. Jordan helped me. He coached me through a few things. I love serving the men. It’s such an awesome feeling. It’s like ’Hey, so happy to see you!’ Laughing and joking with them … I love it. I can walk down the hallway and everyone says, ‘What’s for dinner’ and I say ‘I don’t know,’ but it’s still a wonderful, amazing feeling. If it wasn’t for the Mission I’d be dead or in jail. I was on my last leg. I thought I’d hit rock bottom before but this was a rock bottom. I didn’t know what else to do, so it was come to the Mission. I didn’t know they would take me back. I didn’t think they would but they said, ‘You’re in the system, you’re fine. Come on back in.’ I didn’t know what else to do but die. It’s a total 180.”
Wesley’s plans for the future: “Honestly, I think my calling is to serve here. I just enjoy it. It gives me an amazing feeling. I love the atmosphere here. I hear it all the time, ‘Look at where we’re at,’ (a negative feeling). I say, ‘Look at where you’re at!’ If you knew what comes into this kitchen! It’s mind boggling. People just keep giving. We have to throw things away because there is not enough room for it. I’m happy and thankful for everyone here. I’d like to have a relationship—a family one day. I talk to my ex. We had a conversation last night, but the only way that would happen is if she would accept God—but she’s coming around so to speak. I see myself every day here. Random people would come to me and start talking and tell me a little bit about life. The younger guys would look up to me, tell me about their job interviews, and say, ‘Wish me good luck.’ It’s an awesome feeling.”
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