For one week before Anthony arrived at FRESH Start Emergency Shelter & Resource Center, he was homeless and sleeping under a bridge.
“To be honest, I was used to it,” he said during an interview in June.
For nearly a decade, Anthony lived doubled up with relatives, couch surfed at friend’s homes, or found himself living on the street.
For periods of his life, Anthony lacked a sense of belonging and community. Spending years in the foster care system, bouncing around from home to home didn’t leave much time to make friends or forge deep relationships.
“It felt horrible,” he said. “That’s the best way for me to put it. Because it’s like, ok well, my mom and dad didn’t want me, so why don’t these people want me?”
Anthony did eventually get adopted and experienced stability in his new family.
“After I got adopted, it sort of settled down because my mom is the most wonderful person in the world,” he said. “She has always been my rock and someone I could always go to, even now.”
But the nagging sense of loneliness and abandonment in his early years took a toll.
When he was 20 years old, he moved out and started out on his own.
For the next decade, Anthony found himself in a cycle of employment, unemployment, transient living, homelessness, alcoholism and drug use.
“Pretty much the streets are all I know,” he said.
When he was 23, he entered the long-term men’s program at Lebanon Rescue Mission, which helped him maintain sobriety from hard drugs, then entered HOPES (the former shelter name of FRESH Start) at LCCM.
At HOPES, staff helped him find employment and provided the stability he needed so he could reset his finances and start over.
He found a room and was soon discharged. He was making money, but soon he fell back into old habits and his money was going toward alcohol.
“It was not a fun road,” he said.
The cycle continued for the next six years, which brought him to FRESH Start in May.
“The staff are really keeping me encouraged to keep going and to work every day. They are helping me with budgeting,” he said. “I always have good laughs with all of them, but they are really there for me when I feel upset or when I feel anger…it just feels nice to express how I actually feel about things …they give me good advice, too.”
Though he has fears about the future, he is hopeful and is trying to change his circumstances with the guidance and support of LCCM staff.
Because he doesn’t have to worry about where he will sleep or when he will eat next, now he can focus on other things, such as working toward obtaining his driver’s license, working full-time and looking for a room to rent. Eventually he wants to own his own home and start his own business.
“This is a great place for anybody that’s really wanting the help and is actually willing to work themselves, for themselves, to really want to change. It’s definitely helped me change a lot – mentally, physically and spiritually,” he said. “What more could a person want who’s really wanting to change?”
Lebanon County Christian Ministries