Grateful for a Second Chance

randy with steve adams - house coordinator of the veterans house

The Crabtree -Kovacicek Veterans House is the best place there could be

Randy’s car hit a tractor-trailer that had jack-knifed in the road and was stretched across both lanes of traffic.  “I should have died on impact,” Randy explained.  Rescuers had to cut the top of his car off to pull him out.  His leg was severely broken, and he had life-threatening internal injuries.  He spent a month recovering in the hospital.

It was his third DUI.  “I showed up to court in October with my leg still in a cast,” he explained.  “But the judge was lenient on me.”  Randy was sentenced to 90 days in jail, the minimum sentence, and he was able to get sober during that time.  “I went through two weeks of withdrawal pains.  The doctor offered me medication, but I said no.  I needed the pain to remind me why I had to quit drinking.”

Randy, who has been homeless off and on for over twenty years, started drinking in the Army when he was stationed in West Germany after attaining the rank of  Sergeant (E-5) and being promoted to Crew Leader of a team of indirect-fire infantrymen.  “It was a very stressful job,” he said.  “Instead of turning to God, I turned to the bottle.”  After serving in the Army for 5 and a half years, he tried to adjust to civilian life in 1983 while struggling with alcoholism.

“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.”

“I knew I had a problem, but I was afraid to change.  I didn’t know how to change,” he said.  After his accident and his time in jail, he came out with the attitude that he was done drinking, and he had only one relapse on Father’s Day 1987.  On his way home that night, driving on winding, dirt roads, he nearly drove over a hillside.  “That night scared me sober,” he explained.  “I couldn’t sleep for two days.”  He has been sober ever since.  That was 31 years ago.

For the past six months, Randy lived in a tent in the woods off I-70.  “My friend bought me a red and white tent,” Randy said.  “I told him I was going to stick out like a sore thumb.”  To hide his tent so no one knew he lived there, he found some natural camouflage between a walnut tree and a sycamore.  “It was home,” he said.  “It kept me warm and dry.”

He had a bucket to collect the cleanest water he could find from a nearby creek to bathe in.  Then, he would head off to work as a driver for a local auto auction, where he worked for three years.

A few weeks ago, right around the time he lost that job, Randy saw a story in the newspaper about Steven Adams, the new Manager of Veterans Services at City Mission.  “This is my biggest chance to get help,” he told himself.  “City Mission is paying attention to veterans.  If I have any chance at all, this is it.”

Randy showed up at City Mission, and presented his discharge paperwork, which, along with letters of commendation and certificates from the Army, he had kept through 20 years of intermittent homelessness — a testament to how much his service meant to him.  “My service to my country and my time as a volunteer firefighter are the things I’m most proud of in my life,” he said.  “I was born with a desire to help people.”

When Adams heard that Randy was a veteran, he pulled him out of the men’s shelter and into the Crabtree-Kovacicek Veteran’s House, City Mission’s newly-constructed residence for homeless veterans.  “My job is to fish veterans out of the intake process and get them hooked up with the services they need,” Adams said.  “We got Randy a bed that night, and we’re getting ready to set him up with the VA in Pittsburgh.”

“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.”

Randy has an Associates Degree in Maintenance Electricity and Construction Technology from Triangle Tech and has held an impressive variety of jobs: a security guard, a maintenance man, a garbage truck driver, a delivery man, a machine operator, and an electrician, among others.  “All my life, I could never get the support I needed.  I’d get a job, but it was never enough.  There were lots of times I was homeless while I was working.  I tried to be as frugal as I could, but I could never save any money.  I used it all to live on.  But since day one here at the Mission, I finally feel I’m getting the support I need.”

After Randy’s first few days at the Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House, Adams drove him back to his campsite to clean it up and salvage what they could.  “On the way back,” Adams said “I asked Randy how he felt  to be heading to City Mission after we just ripped down his house.  He told me, ‘I feel like I’m going home.’"

September 3, 2018
Susan Gartland - Social Media Manager
Sue Gartland
Social Media Manager
Sue has a vast career in gospel rescue missions adding great value to the City Mission team. Sue has been in many roles in the mission and is always filling in where she is needed - which is A LOT!

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A New Lease on Life

Resident 'Tim' takes a smoke break
June 12, 2020

“A New Lease on Life” 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.” 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.”