A New Lease on Life
Former Air Force Veteran Finds Comradeship and Salvation at City Mission's Veterans House
In 2018, Tim, an Air Force veteran, was living in a hotel behind a bar. He had lost his Mom and his job of nearly twenty years in 2010, and his life had been slowly unraveling ever since. “Before I came here,” he said, “there wasn’t a single activity in my life that didn’t involve a drink – even taking a shower.”
On July 6, he tripped over a pine root in the dark and broke his hip. “I was intoxicated,” he explained. “I haven’t had a drink since that night. That just woke me up. I firmly believe God laid His hand on me.” That freak accident eventually led him to City Mission, where, in August 2018, after hip surgery and eight weeks in physical therapy, he began the work of healing his mind, body, and spirit.
Tim was born and raised in Monongahela. His Dad, who had been a Navy gunner in World War Two, was a crane operator for a steel mill in McKeesport, and his Mom was a Registered Nurse for a local hospital. He spent 12 years in Catholic School and received an excellent education.
After graduation, he knew he needed a change of scenery after dabbling with drugs and alcohol his last few years of high school. Also, his dad foresaw the closing of local mills and knew that times would be hard financially in the Mon Valley for years to come, so Tim joined the Air Force, attending Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX.
After Basic Training, he trained to be an Air Crew Life Support Specialist. He would pack and maintain emergency items for the flight crew, such as flight helmets and survival kits – a job requiring significant attention to detail.
In 1991, several years after leaving the military and returning home to the Mon Valley, he began working as a custodian for a school district in the South Hills, and he worked there for nearly twenty years. “It was the best job I ever had,” he said. “It wasn’t a high-paying job, but I really liked the people I worked with. It was very close-knit. And it was something different every day. It was the only job I ever had when I didn’t dread going to work.”
Then in 2003, his drinking started to become more and more of a problem. “It was my own fault,” he said. “I can’t blame anyone but myself.”
“This place affords you all the opportunities you need to heal,” he said. “It’s not a homeless shelter in the way you think. They offer career placement and medical care and classes. It’s a place to heal your mind, body, and spirit. When you heal physically, it helps with your recovery, and that helps you re-establish your relationship with Christ.
In 2010, he went to rehab, but he couldn’t complete the outpatient part of the program, because his mother, who had been ill, passed away. Completing the program was a requirement for returning to work, so he lost his job. Devastated, he moved to Oklahoma with his sister just to get away and start fresh, but that only lasted a few years.
“This is home,” he explained. “The roots are sunk deep.”
He moved back to the Mon Valley, but with his family all gone, he had nowhere to stay, so he lived for the next five years in a hotel behind a bar until the night he fell and broke his hip.
He came to City Mission in August of 2018 and then moved into the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House that October.
“This place affords you all the opportunities you need to heal,” he said. “It’s not a homeless shelter in the way you think. They offer career placement and medical care and classes. It’s a place to heal your mind, body, and spirit. When you heal physically, it helps with your recovery, and that helps you re-establish your relationship with Christ. And you’re just a walking shell unless you have a relationship with Christ. Mind, body, and spirit -- they all three mesh together.”
“City Mission gave me a sense of self-worth and put me back in touch with the Lord,” he added. “Knowing that I could be of service is important to me. I just want to do something positive, effect positive change, and I know I’ve made positive contributions here.”
“At the Crabtree House, we have confidence and self-respect. Perhaps it’s from our military experience. We’re all brother veterans, all working together for the betterment of all. I’m grateful to be able to have a sense of pride in something. And we take pride in that house.”
“Thanks for saving my life,” he said to all the staff at City Mission. “For giving me a new lease on life.”
At ten minutes before 4pm on Monday, June 7, the rain started coming down. Brianna Kadlecik, City Mission’s Career Services Manager, had just started setting up for the second annual outdoor Tie-Dye event for the residents. Quickly, with help from the Mission’s Recovery Support staff, she moved all the tables and supplies under the pavilion by the men’s shelter to get out of the rain. “We want to create opportunities for our residents to have fun and relax when they’re here, and to take a break from the heavier and more difficult issues that they’re working through,” Kadlecik said, explaining why she was so determined to put on the event for the residents, even in the rain. “Events like this also help build community with the residents and they get to see each other and the staff in a different light.” Last summer, during COVID lockdown, it was a difficult and unsettling time for the Mission and their residents. During that time, the Mission staff worked hard to host fun activities to help boost the morale of the residents – activities like movie nights and coloring groups. One Mission resident had the idea for a tie-dye-t-shirt-making event. “Not only did that resident want to do tie-dye for the sheer fun of the event, but he also wanted to have something that reminded him of his time at the Mission,” Kadlecik explained. “I thought it was a brilliant idea and we both took time to watch videos and read articles about how to do tie-dye.” The event was so successful last year, with nearly 30 residents participating, that Kadlecik knew she needed to do it again this year. Thirty-two residents and seven staff members made a shirt last Monday, and five more residents plan to make shirts in the coming weeks. “I firmly believe in the power that self-expression and creativity have in our personal healing and self-care,” Kadlecik noted. “We get so many residents from various walks of life and some of them haven’t been exposed to the freedom of creating to express themselves or to purely have fun. “It’s a joy to see the residents smiling as they dye their shirts -- to hear them laughing, helping, and encouraging one another as they create their shirts.” You can help the men, women, children, and veterans who stay with us to have positive experiences, gain confidence, build connections, and live with hope along their journey to independent living. Visit us at www.citymission.org to learn more about our programs and services and to see how you can support our life-changing work in the community.
All Bases Covered
Tom is a Desert Storm-era veteran, serving in the US Army from 1990-1994. He grew up in Belmont County, OH.After his military service, for years, he was a salesman at Xerox. But, eventually, his health deteriorated to the point where he could no longer work or even live on his own. Suffering from severe hearing loss and the intense pain of two failing hip joints along with the loss of his job and his independence, he spiraled into depression. He finally sought help at the Veterans Center in Belmont County for his medical and mental health issues.To his surprise, the Veterans Center recommended him to a place he had never heard of in a completely different state – City Mission’s Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House. “It was actually my home state of Ohio that said, you know, basically, the best place for you to go to be able to get the help you need would be the City Mission in Washington, PA,” Tom explained. “And I thought that sounded pretty surprising.”Tom was encouraged when he heard that City Mission was a Christ-centered shelter. Even though he was raised in the Catholic church, he had fallen away from God at different periods in his life, and he knew that getting right again with the Lord was exactly what he needed to get his life back on track. “It’s well-rounded here,” he said. “You have a faith-based community. You have help for veterans. You have help for everyone. And it’s all those different programs wrapped together that you know, I figured I would give it a try.”So he got a ride down Interstate-70 and moved into the Veterans House at City Mission in October of 2019. Immediately, Steve Adams, City Mission’s Manager of Veterans Services, connected Tom with the VA, where he has been able to get help with his hearing loss. He is also currently on the waiting list for two hip replacements.Additionally, he is working with our staff at the Career Training and Education Center to restore a sense of purpose in his life by establishing education and career goals. Inspired by the compassionate work of the City Mission staff, he is even considering pursuing his Master of Arts in Theology and Christian Ministry through the online program at Fransiscan University.“You’ve got a support team here that handles everything in regards to education, job search, housing placement, so on and so forth. The whole core concept is basically preparing you to get back to independent living. So, all bases are covered,” he said of his experience at the Mission.“Before I came here,” he added, “I didn’t feel like I had any kind of a future. But now, you know, there’s light on the road ahead.” In November of 2020, after more than a year at the Mission, Tom moved out of the Veterans House and back to Belmont County, Ohio to be near his friends and family and his fiancée. Steve Adams spoke with Tom just a few months ago. “He is doing well,” Adams said. “He’s in good spirits.”Like so many local veterans who have struggled, Tom got the help he needed and rediscovered his passion for life at City Mission’s Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House. Your compassion helped Tom find his way. There are 22 more veterans in our Veterans House who could certainly use your help. Visit https://www.citymission.org/support/veterans to find out how you can help or call 724-222-8530 to learn more.
"I'm a Real Person Again!"
Imagine for a moment that you live in a tent under a bridge. You’ve only been homeless for a few weeks, and things are actually starting to look up. You just had a job interview earlier in the day that seems promising enough. You have relevant experience, and you feel like it’ll be a good fit. It is giving you the first glimmer of hope you have had in quite a while. If things go well, maybe you can even get an apartment within the next few weeks. Maybe your kids could even come and live with you again sometime in the near future. That’s what you’ve been praying for. On your way back to your tent for the night, you hear a rustling in the bushes behind you. Before you can turn around, you’ve been clubbed over the head with a rock. You’re lying in the dirt, slipping in and out of consciousness, but you feel hands digging in your pockets for your wallet. When you come to, you realize that everything has been stolen from you – your cash and credit cards, all of your ID documents, even the photos of your kids that you keep in your backpack. Thankfully, you get that job you were hoping for, but the company can’t hire you, because you’re unable to provide ID for their new hire paperwork. Early the next morning, you go to the post office to get your last unemployment check so you can buy food. You haven’t eaten in three days. But no place in town will cash the check for you, because you have no ID. You contact the Vital Records department to get a copy of your birth certificate, but you have to provide an ID. So you call PennDot to get a copy of your state ID, but they ask for your birth certificate. You can’t figure out how your life unraveled so quickly. At the end of your rope, with nowhere else to turn, you walk in the doors at City Mission. Immediately, you get a hot meal, a soft bed, a change of clothes, and you meet Career Services Manager, Brianna Kadlecik. “I can help you,” she says. She sits you down in the Career Training and Education Center and hands you an application. She tells you that the Mission has helped to provide roughly 850 identity documents for their residents since she started working there four years ago and already 133 pieces of identification since this past October.“90% of our residents come to us missing at least one of the key ID documents: Birth Certificate, SocialSecurity Card, or State ID,” she explains. “And the doors it can open up for you when you get them are amazing! Employment, housing, and things like that.”You tell her you were born and raised in Pennsylvania. “That’ll make it easy,” she says. And she explains that the best place to start is to contact the Vital Records department to get your birth certificate. As a social worker, she can make the request on your behalf. You just have to sign a letter giving her permission. That can really speed up the process and help you navigate the loop of having to provide ID to get your birth certificate. “Huge props to PA,” she adds. “They have a homeless fee waiver for birth certificates, which is tremendous. Not many states offer that.” Brianna explains that your application should go pretty quick, but sometimes out-of-state requests can get a bit tricky. She tells you a story about a former resident who came to the Mission in January of 2018. She was born in Texas. The only ID she had was an expired driver’s license from Michigan. Her parents were no longer alive, and she really had no family to vouch for her identity or make the request on her behalf. Brianna explained that they were between a rock and a hard place with the Texas Vital Records department and every application they submitted was rejected for six months.“Ultimately, she needed a state ID to get a job, but first, we had to get her birth certificate, because that unlocks all the other doors,” Brianna says. “I give her a ton of credit. She was so patient.” Waiting on the ID documents set her job search back several months, but Brianna and the resident never gave up. At the end of July that year, the birth certificate finally came in the mail. “When it finally came in,” Brianna remembers, “we were both over the moon. We had worked so hard. And she definitely needed it.” When your birth certificate comes in the mail three weeks later, Brianna hands it to you across the table in the Career Training and Education Center. “We’re here to help you remove barriers,” she smiles. “And this birth certificate is going to take barriers away and help you secure employment and housing and get you on your way to independence. It may seem like just a small, little thing right now, but it’s actually a HUGE thing.”You hold the crisp, new birth certificate in your hands. It has your name printed on it in bold letters.“I’m a real person,” you say, without thinking. “This proves that I’m a real person again.” Now, you have the documentation you need to get a job, apply for public housing, rent an apartment, cash a check, apply for student loans, etc. Just a few pieces of paper unlock all of these doors for you. City Mission has helped hundreds of people walk through these doors. With your help, together, we can help hundreds more. Visit www.citymission.org to learn more about how you can help.
Robert Breaks Free
Robert sat in a prison cell trying to figure out how to get his life turned around. His addiction had ruined his life, destroyed his relationships with his wife and kids, and ultimately landed him in prison. He knew he needed to change everything if things were going to get any better. Robert, who grew up in the Mon Valley, was baptized in the Catholic church. He was also an altar boy and attended Catholic school. But it wasn’t a happy childhood. Sadly, Robert was molested at a young age by a family member. At age 14, perhaps as a way to cope with his trauma, he began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. “The first time I ever used any type of drugs, I was 14,” he explained. “But it didn’t progress any. And then, when I got into my 20s, when I was able to go to bars, that’s when it progressed. Drinking, you know, basically every day after work.” His drinking was an attempt to numb the pain from his childhood, but it prevented him from seeking help to treat bipolar, anxiety, and Post-traumatic Stress disorders, which all went undiagnosed for decades. In 2010, he managed to break his back, and his doctor prescribed painkillers. “I was drinking every day, but the drug problem didn’t come into effect until I broke my back,” Robert said. “The doctor kept prescribing me opioids. And then, all of a sudden, he cut me off.” After his prescriptions ran out, Robert began to self-medicate with street drugs, which eventually led to a full-blown addiction that lasted for nearly ten years. During that time, he was homeless and living on the street for about eight months. “I slept under bridges. I slept in a doghouse once,” he recalled. “I slept in a tent down by the river, for like two months, until somebody came and burned it down.” Eventually, he wound up in prison, and with nowhere else to go upon his release, he came to City Mission. “This is one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had in my life,” he said of his experience at the Mission. “I am blessed, because there is no other place that you could get what you get here.” Since arriving, Robert has restored his relationship with Christ, worked on his recovery, earned a forklift operator certification and an OSHA Agriculture certificate, coordinated the Mission’s Big Brother mentorship program, and acted as a Resident Assistant, helping to mentor newer intakes. “I’ve seen people come in here who were very successful when they left,” he said, “and I believe I can be one of those people.” Robert was well on his way to independence and a transformed life, but, in November, he tested positive for the Coronavirus. He got really sick and had to be quarantined, but every day, someone from the Mission came to check on him. That care and compassion from the staff impacted him even more than all of the opportunities the Mission had made available to him. “I never realized what Agape love is until now,” he explained. “I’ve come around positive people that are believers, and they really helped me a lot…It’s just totally unreal.” “if you have patience,” Robert added, “God will give you not what you want but what you need.” Robert has capitalized on his opportunities here at City Mission and has turned his life around. You can help our residents, just like Robert, restore their lives and renew their hope. Visit www.citymission.org or call 724-222-8530 to find out how you can help.
Garrick Gets Another Chance
Garrick had a happy childhood, growing up in Beaver County, and going to church with his family. Life was good. But then, in high school, he made some bad decisions, fell in with the wrong crowd, and got into drugs and alcohol. His life went off course, and he even had to drop out of college. Eventually, his addiction took everything away from him. “My life went downhill really fast because of addiction,” he said. “Basically, it escalated to the point in my 20s and early 30s that I pretty much like burned every bridge with everybody I had in my life. I was in and out of rehab, sleeping on people’s couches, sleeping outside on the street if I had to.” At one point, Garrick managed to stay clean and sober for almost five years. During that time, he met someone and had two beautiful children. He had a job and was creating a good life for himself and his family. “That short time period proved to me that life can be good and worth living,” he explained. “And that there is another way to live.” And then, he relapsed, and his life, once again, spun out of control. “It got to a point where my life was so bad that I needed to try something different,” he said, “because life, the way I was living it, was pretty terrible.” After addiction tore his life and his family apart, Garrick, with nowhere else to turn, came to City Mission in 2018. He stayed for over a year. He got clean and then he moved out. But the everyday battle with addiction lead to a relapse in a very short time. “I basically fell flat on my face again,” he said. “But when I was here the first time, I was doing what I had to do for the addiction side but without God in my life.” Garrick had been very closed-minded about the spiritual aspect of his recovery. He had grown up in the church, but when addiction grabbed ahold of him, he blamed God. “I was like how could God let this happen to me,” he recalled, and he had a difficult time opening his heart back up to God. But when he came back to the Mission for the second time, he came in with a very different perspective. “I was so broken by the time I got back here again that it was like a light bulb went off in my head,” he explained. “Through my trials and tribulations, I basically learned how to open my mind up to the idea that there is a God. I thought to myself, I need to try something different, because whatever I was doing before wasn’t working. I hated myself for so long and I feel like that’s what became natural for me was hating myself. Until I came back here and was here for a couple weeks.” As seen with many addiction journeys, it took two tries for Garrick to turn his life around. But he knew that City Mission was the place where a new life was possible. “Before coming to the Mission, I was broken. Since coming here, I’m finally happy. Happy that I restored my relationship with the Lord. It’s definitely better when you have God on your side.” Now that Garrick has his life back on track, he wants to give back and help other people. He is looking to go back to school for drug and alcohol counseling or nursing. “I truly believe that I need to do something that helps people. Because I’ve had a lot of jobs that didn’t help people and I was miserable,” he said. “I think the biggest thing that I learned at the Mission is how to help others.” Garrick is a new creation. You can help others just like him to turn their lives around at City Mission. Visit www.citymission.org to find out how.
Today I Have Hope
“I can honestly say that I’ve been depressed most of my life,” Carmella said. She was abused as a child and experienced the death of two husbands in her lifetime. Her first husband died of lung cancer when he was just 38 years old. “Death and grieving have been like a big part of my story,” she noted. Over the years, Carmella turned to drugs to ease the pain of her grief. “Drugs weren’t my problem,” she explained. “They were my solution.” But eventually, the drugs took over and derailed her life. When she was clean, she was successful. She is well-educated. She worked in various careers. She was a counselor, an administrative assistant, a corrections officer. But drugs ripped her life apart, and in 2017, she found herself homeless. “I never thought that my life would turn out the way that it has.” Eventually, she found her way to City Mission, and she has started to put the pieces of her life back together. She has a job and is going to counseling to manage her grief and depression. She is working the steps to stay clean. “The Mission has given me the opportunity to look at how full my life is instead of how little my life is,” she said. “I’m not focusing on what I don’t have. I’m looking at what I have to be grateful for.” Carmella has two daughters, 33 and 15, who are her biggest supporters. “My children understand addiction because we’ve been through it for so long. They’ve seen me at my best. They’ve seen me at my worst. And they’re proud of me now.” She is also working to complete a degree in social work so she can help people who have suffered like she has suffered. “If I can just be a better mother to my children, a better child of God and to be able to get into social work somewhere where I can help people like me, that’s what I’d like to do.” It turns out, Carmella’s life was always fuller and richer than her grief ever let her realize, and now she is finally filled with hope and a promise for the future. “I don’t see myself as a failure anymore,” she said. “I don’t see myself as a burden. I’m able to give back where I took so much. This time last year, I was hopeless. I was depressed. I was spiritually bankrupt. I was gloom. I was doom. And today I have hope.” “This is a place of restoration. This is a place of giving life to the lifeless.”
Matt Celebrates Hope
Growing up without a father, Matt had no stable role model to guide him. He fell in with the wrong crowd and developed harmful addictions and behaviors that took control of his life. He experienced times of sobriety – even developing a relationship with God, going to ministry school, and preaching the gospel. But over time he relapsed and continued down the same destructive path. Finally, when he permanently lost custody of his precious young daughter because of his drug use, he was heartbroken. And he asked the Lord to help him change his life. “It was the beginning of my surrender to Jesus Christ,” he says. He came to the Mission to continue his journey in our Christ-centered program. “I came here looking to connect with my Father, God, and to renew the relationship with Him that I once had,” he explains. “I wanted to pursue God in prayer… in meditation… and in His Word,” Matt says, “and I have found all that here.” And as he embraces God’s forgiveness for his past, “I’m learning to love myself the way God loves me,” he says. Now, with God guiding his steps, he feels called to return to the mission field. “I’ve figured out that I’m truly God’s son… I’ve discovered what my passion is… and what I was put on this earth to do,” he shares. “I’m truly happy, and I can say that with all my heart.” Thanks to the blessing of your support, Matt has hope as a new creation in Christ. “The Mission gives an individual the opportunity to get right with the Lord and to truly change their life.”
A Life Renewed ... A Family Restored
At just 26, Mashae was struggling as a single mother. Her father’s sudden death had saddened her deeply. Her depression eventually led to substance abuse, which made it difficult for her to care for herself and her three children. “I wasn’t eating or taking showers. My kids weren’t going to school. I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t want to admit it.” At first, the drugs helped her to numb the pain of losing her father. They also gave her the energy to get up in the middle of the night with her youngest child and to clean up around the house. But very quickly, everything unraveled, and the drugs took over her life. “I was pretty broken. Very upset, very confused. I was very overwhelmed.” Finally, Mashae’s mother stepped in… and encouraged her to seek help at City Mission. At the Mission, her life is being restored through Christ-centered programs and a newfound trust in the Lord. “I’ve learned He will always be there for you no matter what…He will always forgive you. He’s always on your side. He will never let you down.” Mashae is working to earn her GED and hopes to become a paralegal. She is dedicated to being the mother and godly role model her children need. Today, Mashae says, “I am healthier and happier. I know my worth now.”
At a Crossroads
This past June, Steve, a US Army veteran, was struggling through a marital separation when he lost his job without warning. He had been a welder for a local manufacturing plant for the past ten years. With no idea what to do next, he remembered a former co-worker talking about City Mission’s Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House, and he decided to give it a try. “It’s been a blessing ever since,” he explained. “I thank this place for providing stability for me. I was at a crossroads, and they helped me find the right road.” Steve grew up in Houston, PA. His mom was a single mother raising eight kids. After he graduated from high school in 1982, he went into the Army for three years of active duty. “I saw combat and jumped out of airplanes,” he said of his military experience. He also trained to be a medic, which was a difficult job, but he thought at least it would transition into a good career after the military. Unfortunately, he was never able to get a job in the medical field. Eventually, after the military, he moved with a friend to Atlanta, pursuing a job opportunity at a liquor warehouse. “It wasn’t a good place to be,” he said. “I was young. Alcohol led to drugs. That’s where my life spiraled.” To get clean, he moved back home. He went to rehab a few times but was never really focused, and he had to fight for his sobriety for decades. He has been clean now for seven years. When he came to City Mission, he was curious but cautious. Everyone turned out to be much friendlier and more helpful than he expected. “I didn’t think guys would listen to my story and be so willing to help,” he said. “Guys were listening and advising but not telling me what to do. I realized my story isn’t the only one. I related with everybody here. I started to relax and open up.” City Mission’s Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House set him up with counseling through the Vet Center and helped him get funds to go back to school and earn his Commercial Driver’s License. The Mission drove him back and forth to school at Penn Commercial Technical School so he didn’t have to worry about getting a ride. After six weeks, he graduated from the program, and he’s now considering multiple job offers. “The trucking field is so in demand right now,” he explained. “People aren’t shopping in stores. Things are being delivered. I’m looking at so many options.” Recently, Steve was able to land a good job in the trucking industry. He successfully moved out of the Mission and is waiting to begin the next phase of his training out on the road. “I’m proud of myself,” Steve said. “The Mission taught me to stop rushing into everything – to focus on a goal and go for it. They showed me things, but I did it. They led me to water, but I drank on my own. Coming to the Mission is not putting yourself down. It’s an opportunity to better yourself. If you could see how I feel because of what I’ve been able to accomplish, anybody would want to do this.”
“OVERWHELMED WITH JOY”
“There are plenty of facilities but none like this one,” says Kazmiere, a resident of City Mission’s Women with Children Shelter. “The compassion of the people in this place is amazing. They want to see you rise up and be successful.” Kazmiere and her three daughters came to City Mission in the spring of 2019. Before that, they were homeless, moving from place to place, staying with family members who would take them in. The moment Kazmiere stepped in the door at City Mission, her anger, fear and anxiety dissolved away. “The burdens of the world just fell off my shoulders,” she explains. “It feels so good not to have to live like that anymore.” During her stay, Kazmiere has solidified her relationship with God, invested more time in her children, and worked on her recovery. She has purchased a vehicle and started nursing school. Now she is looking to move into a place of her own – in time for the holidays – where her children can open presents under the tree.“I can’t wait for Christmas,” she says today. “I’m overwhelmed with joy.” She shares that her experience at the Mission last year gave her a new joy for the holidays.“It was awesome,” she says. “There were so many toys I couldn’t even walk around in my suite. My kids were so happy!”Her newfound joy for Christmas has inspired her to give back: “This year, I’m going to bless a family with gifts, a Christmas meal and some gift cards for Mom,” she says. “I want somebody else to feel how I felt when Christmas came around last year.”This holiday season, Kazmiere will be celebrating Christmas with a renewed spirit and the great joy that comes from a new life.
Jacquie Found Joy at City Mission
"City Mission is the Lord's house. If this place can help me, think about all the good things it can do. I am forever attached to this place now," said Jacquie, a current City Mission resident. "Here, I finally began to understand that life isn't totally about me and my needs. When I began to put other people first, I attained peace and joy that I never really had before." Jacquie went into foster care when she was 11, had her first drink at 14, and a year later, ran away from home and started living on the street. She struggled with alcoholism and homelessness for decades. Jacquie drank to numb the pain of her traumatic childhood. “Alcohol was my magic elixir,” she explained. “It seemed to solve all of my problems at first.” Over time, it created even bigger problems for her. One day, during a 24-hour lockdown in jail, she picked up the Bible and started reading. She got down on her knees, and she gave her life to Christ. But she couldn’t quite kick her alcoholism. Not at first. After her release from jail, she went right back to living on the street. She hopped a freight train into Pittsburgh with her friends. “It just became clear to me,” she explained, “that -- because I had gotten saved, you know, I asked Jesus into my heart -- that the life I was living was not what I was supposed to be living. And it got painful. You know, it got spiritually painful to go on the way that I did.” So she went to rehab and has been sober now for over a year! After completing a six-month program at a halfway house, she decided to come to City Mission to continue to strengthen her relationship with Christ. “City Mission provides me with shelter, you know, that needed sanctuary from the world,” she said. “And I just needed that. I can sit here and talk about the things I’ve gained materialistically in sobriety, but the things that mean the most to me are the things you can’t see. And that’s my relationship with God and the joy I have in my heart.” Recently, Jacquie got the highest-paying job she has ever had, working at a distribution warehouse. She was able to save up money and purchase a car. Also, she recently started college to study social work. In the future, she hopes to become a social worker and work to heal those in need. “I want to work in some capacity with alcoholics and addicts. But I would really, really like to help the homeless. Just get into the community and help.”
Life Changing Call
Michael always knew he wanted to go to college. It was his best opportunity to live out a calling to help people. He wanted a job he could be passionate about, one that truly made an impact. But he felt stuck. “He was hoping for a future path that included a career in the medical or counseling field,” explained Colleen Riker, City Mission’s Manager of Medical Services, who worked closely with Michael during his time at the Mission. “His desire was to attend college, but he wasn’t sure that was even a viable option since he was living in a homeless shelter and had no income.” Michael had a very difficult few years. In 2016, he lost a close friend to suicide. “We really didn’t know how he was feeling,” he said of his friend. “I want to be able to help prevent that from happening to someone else.” He even volunteers as a Crisis Counselor for the Crisis Text Line to provide support for those who have lost hope. But his opportunities to help people are limited, and he has long dreamed of earning his degree and becoming a nurse or a social worker. When Michael graduated from Wash High, he began the process of completing his college application, but he hit a roadblock completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). He and his family also had a falling out at that time, which resulted in him getting kicked out of the house. For several years, Michael moved around and hopped from job to job. “I was couch-surfing for a while until I ran out of options,” he explained. When he had exhausted all other options, he made a call to his longtime friend, Brianna Kadlecik, who happened to be the Career Training and Education Center Coordinator at City Mission. “Michael and I met in the youth group for West Washington and Jefferson Avenue United Methodist churches,” Kadlecik explained. “We ended up becoming part of a praise band called the Fools for Christ, where we both sang.” It was a life-changing call for Michael. “I don’t like asking for help,” he said. “I always like to do it myself. When I had to reach out, it was a big step for me.” In May of last year, he moved into City Mission. At first, he was not at all sure that City Mission was the right fit for him. “The first day was really scary,” he said. “There are a lot of people in one room. Disagreements are going to pop up. I tried to stay out of it.” Many of the men around him were much older and in drug and alcohol addiction recovery, which was not one of Michael’s struggles. He felt out of place. “When Michael first came to City Mission in May of 2019, he had a lot of anxiety issues,” said Riker. “But he worked with our Medical Clinic and Drug-Free Pain Management Team to establish a doctor and utilize Alpha-Stim technology to manage his anxiety.” And he managed to stick with the program. He had some meaningful conversations with City Mission staff and his fellow residents, and he eventually decided to stay. “The Mission taught me to not be in a rush, to just let the process work.” He started going to the Career Training and Education Center at the Mission, and he used the computers there to work on his college application. Now that he was living at the Mission, he could complete his FAFSA application form as an independent, and that helped him out tremendously. “We were able to help him finish his application,” said Kadlecik. “This was a barrier that I had seen Michael run up against for years with no hope of getting past it, and It was so rewarding to see him finally get past it. Michael was filled with hope where there had been so much disappointment and frustration.” Kadlecik also helped him write a resume, which eventually helped him get hired at Gabe’s in Washington, where he was able to save up money toward the additional costs of college that his loans would not cover. He was even able to save up enough money to purchase his own vehicle. Then, one day, a letter from California University of Pennsylvania came in the mail at the Mission with Michael’s name on it. “The moment when I was accepted into college, that was a fun moment,” he said. “Everyone was excited!” “There were high-fives and tears of joy when he received his acceptance letter,” said Riker. “Michael was excited when he got the acceptance letter,” remembered Kadlecik. “He made the rounds to all the staff that he’d been working with, and we were all so excited for him. His dream was finally going to become a reality.”
Family homelessness can be devastating and have a lifelong impact on mothers and children, but lives are being transformed at City Mission’s Women with Children Shelter. Kazmiere and her family are living proof of that. “Without the Mission providing me the opportunity to keep my kids, this journey would have never started for me. It means everything to me. I’m forever grateful--for real.”
Knowledge is Power
City Mission’s Career Training and Education Coordinator, Brianna Kadlecik, and volunteer instructor, Dee Dee Zinn, have been working alongside the residents as they pursue their GED, and it has been very rewarding for them to watch the residents learn and grow as people. “It really builds their confidence,” Kadlecik explained. “When everyone is cheering them on, they start to see that they can really do it.”
City Mission Vets Give Back
On July 3, City Mission’s Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House celebrated two years of life transformation for homeless veterans. “This house is a testament to what can happen when a group of guys trust and believe in each other and work together to accomplish one another’s goals,” said Steve Adams, City Mission’s Manager of Veterans Services. Since opening its doors in 2018, the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House has helped restore 27 homeless veterans to independent living and helped 33 residents gain sustainable income. Boasting a 74% overall success rate for housing, employment, income, recovery, and spirituality, the Crabtree House is helping to restore hope and confidence for the 22 veterans they serve. City Mission’s program is about veterans helping veterans. The response from local veterans’ organizations who have donated money, clothes, food, and time to the residents has been overwhelming. “The donors have been so generous to this house,” said Tim, an Air Force veteran who came to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House in October 2018 after breaking his hip. “The amount of donations that come in -- it’s just an overabundance. For me, it’s important to find a good way to give back.” In addition to getting help for our veterans, our residents are also finding ways to give help to other veterans. Every day, they are helping, supporting, and encouraging each other. “Vets are more willing and able to open up to other veterans,” explained Adams. Tim agreed, “It’s a matter of taking an oath and making a commitment. We all held up our end of the bargain for our country. And maybe that’s what sets us apart. An oath really does mean something to each and every one of us.” Veterans helping and supporting each other is key to their recovery. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, “The most effective programs for homeless and at-risk veterans are community-based, nonprofit, “veterans helping veterans” groups. Programs that seem to work best feature transitional housing with the camaraderie of living in structured, substance-free environments with fellow veterans who are succeeding at bettering themselves.” But the veterans in City Mission’s program are also reaching out to the community and giving back. Wendi Kraemer is the President and founder of Angels Journey Home, a rescue shelter for animals. A few years ago, her organization partnered with the Veterans Administration to create the Angels For Everyday Heroes program, which rescues animals, trains them to be service animals, and then connects them with veterans in need all over the country. “There are so many homeless veterans in need,” she said. “So many suffering every day.” Her organization donates to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House every couple of months. “We’re here for vets,” she said. They were able to donate a nice suit to a resident who said he had never owned one. They even donated special shoes to a resident who suffered with foot pain related to diabetes. Last spring, a small group of residents from the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House went over to Kraemer’s 10-acre facility to give back. “They came and picked up trash, laid mulch all around the property,” Kraemer said. “We have a cat sanctuary, and they helped us out with that. It was great watching them laugh and joke around and just disconnect from their problems.” Joe, an Air Force veteran who came to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House in April of last year, was there that day, helping to give back. “It was a lot of fun. I love doing that kind of stuff,” he said. Joe replaced some roof boards on the cat sanctuary. Tim helped Kraemer sort through donated pet supplies. Joe and Tim both agreed it felt good to give back to an organization that is doing good in the world. “It’s good to feel productive,” Tim explained. “That’s rewarding in and of itself.”
For six months, Randy lived in a tent in the woods. He found a nice spot between two trees. “It was home,” he said. “It kept me warm and dry.” After losing his job, Randy saw a story in the newspaper about Steven Adams, the new Manager of Veterans Services at City Mission.
City Mission Gave Me Hope When I Had No Hope Left
Pete found his way to the Greenbriar Treatment Center - the Lighthouse for Men where he began to learn about recovery. He also learned that he had no-one to count on and nowhere else to go. The staff at Greenbriar referred him to the Washington City Mission. Pete recalls, ‘I came to the City Mission in June of 2014. The first couple of weeks were rocky for me. I was running on self-will. After a few weeks I broke down to the Lord. I needed his help.”
Grateful for Your Kindness
"This place has opened up a whole new world for me! I can’t even count all the blessings. For once in my life I’m stopping and noticing all the blessings all around,” said Amanda, a resident at City Mission’s Women with Children Shelter. Amanda has suffered through ten years of addiction and five years in an abusive relationship. “He shot at me. He tried to stab me,” she explained. “He threw me out of a truck in New York and told me to find my own way home.”
Celebrating Her Blessings
”When she came to City Mission, she was surprised at the feeling of community here. “I’ve been in rehabs and other programs. This is the best one I’ve ever been in. I don’t just feel like another drug addict passing through. It’s different here. It doesn’t address just the addiction. It helps you with your spiritual life. It encompasses everything.
Happy at Last
Since coming to City Mission, Shawn has transformed his life. “I’m getting my mind, body, and soul back,” he said. “This place is definitely a God-send. It’s so peaceful here. For the longest time I didn’t even consider myself a veteran. Now, I’m proud to be a vet. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned here.”
Tonya's Amazing Story of Hope
“It’s amazing here,” Tonya said of City Mission. “I tell a lot of people about this place.” Tonya and her daughter Jariyah,4, moved into the Women with Children Shelter in December of last year. When Tonya, who is originally from Brownsville, finished her program at the halfway house where she was living for six months, she didn’t really want to come to City Mission. She wanted to hurry up and get on with her life and reunite with her two sons who have been living with their Dad for the past three years. But she had nowhere to go except back to her hometown.
A Safe Haven
On Friday, October 25, City Mission celebrates the first anniversary of their Women with Children Shelter. Over the past year, the shelter has become a place of love, security, and encouragement for mothers and children who have nowhere else to go. “The sense of community in the Women with Children Shelter is wonderful,” said Leah Dietrich, City Mission’s Director of Residential Programs. “The kids love having their own space for their family, but they also love playing together. There are best friends in the making all the time. There is a lot of love in that building.”
Walking with the King
Nettie’s addiction started at a young age. “I grew up with structure. But after Mom died, that structure went away. Dad was working in the steel mill and there was no one to watch the kids. That’s when I started getting into trouble,” she explained. “I got involved in drinking at 12 years old"
"Don't Ever Give Up"
Derek came to City Mission on a cold, rainy day last September. He was walking out in the rain, with nowhere to go and no plan for the future. His health was deteriorating rapidly, and the outlook was bleak. Suddenly, a minivan pulled up out of nowhere, and the driver offered him a ride.
A Year of Hope
In the army, Will had a very stressful job, working with explosives. He battled depression and even tried to kill himself, though he does not remember doing it. He was diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and honorably discharged from the Army thinking that his training would gain him a good civilian job. “But I made and detonated bombs in the Army. There’s no steady, civilian job around here like that. I couldn’t get a job, couldn’t provide for my family. All I had to give them was time and energy.”
Finding Hope Again
Richard, a former Marine and Vietnam Veteran was living under a bridge in an empty refrigerator box less than a year ago. "I couldn't find work. I have a disability, high blood pressure and diabetes. I was sick and disheartened, I had lost my faith." A friend introduced him to the Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House and since coming to the 22-bed shelter for homeless vets his life has been transformed! You can hear Richard tell his story to Biz'Burgh host John Hall on 101.5 WORD-FM.
Kevin - A Veteran - Is Our New Shift Supervisor
Dr. Michael Crabtree met Kevin only recently, but he’s made a huge difference in Kevin’s life for nearly a year. Kevin, a veteran of the US Navy and the Navy Reserve, was among the very first residents who moved into the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House when it opened last July.
Love Thy Neighbor
The Samaritan Care Center is a place where our neighbors in need can come and get food items and clothing vouchers to help them get by, but it’s also so much more than that. Here’s what happened there during a week as told by our Samaritan Care Coordinator, Paul Smith:“A young lady named Cathy came and asked if she could stay here today since she needs somewhere to wait for a friend to come and give her a ride. She told me her story and how she is nearly homeless herself. I was able to give her some advice about who to talk to for housing once she starts working.
YOU are Helping Nikki Make a New Start
Nikki joined our three-week Customer Service and Sales Fundamentals training course and graduated with a certificate from the National Retail Federation. As part of the course, she toured local retail businesses. On the tour at Shop & Save she noticed their bakery, put in an application and was offered a job. She is using her years of experience to decorate specialty cakes and icing donuts and cookies.
From Baseball Star to Prodigal Son
“I had the chance to play with some of the best baseball players in the world,” said Dave,a current City Mission resident. As a teenager, Dave played in the Pony League World Series. In high school, he traveled with an all-star team to compete internationally. “It was an experience I’ll never forget,” he said. “Little kids were actually asking for my autograph.” He even earned a full scholarship to play baseball in college. “I always had a mind for the game,” he explained. “I used to listen to every game on the radio with my Grandpa.”
City Mission Resident Returns Home for the Holidays
City Mission started a new initiative this holiday season to reach out to the community by serving hot, home-cooked meals to people, outside their walls, who might not otherwise get a good meal for the holidays. This year, they served Thanksgiving dinners to the community at two, off-site locations: Arc Human Services and Thomas Campbell
A Light at the End of the Tunnel
T’kora grew up in Greenwood, SC. “I really didn’t have a childhood,” she explained. “My Dad took that from me. He was very abusive.”At night, her Dad would have his friends over to the house, and he’d make T’kora and her brother, who was 9 months younger, fight for their entertainment. “His friends would yell and scream. They’d throw money at us and make us hurt each other and hit each other. It ruined my relationship with my brother. We can’t even look at each other."
An Amazing Journey
“I’m richer now with nothing than I was when I had everything.” “I’m on an amazing journey right now,” said Ron, a current resident at City Mission. “People here don’t see me as a failure. They look at me like I’m a victor and not a victim. ”Not that long ago, Ron was the General Manager of a car dealership. “I made really good money. I always had a new car to drive, and I was responsible for 87 employees. I’ve been blessed with so many good things in my life, and I’ve ruined them all.
City Mission Residents Go Back to School
On June 11, the City Mission Career Training and Education Center offered a three-week Customer Service and Sales Fundamentals training course. All three students who took the course successfully completed a National Retail Federation exam and attained a certificate that they can now list on their resumes and present to prospective employers. “We’re trying to show our residents that we can be a really great support system for them,” said Brianna Kadlecik, the Vocational Assistant at City Mission’s Career Training and Education Center.
Grateful for a Second Chance
The Crabtree -Kovacicek Veterans House is the best place there could be,” Randy said after a week in his new home. “If you’re really looking for help, you can find it here. I’m grateful to God for giving me a second chance at life. This is an answer to prayer.