Leaving the streets of Miami

admin | 1/25/2012, 7:34 a.m.

South Florida residents share how they left homelessness behind

Change is difficult for most people, whether it be simple adjustments needed to ones diet, or more complex adjustments needed to overhaul a persons lifestyle. Meanwhile, the changes, support and sometimes also good fortune a homeless person needs to have in order to get off the streets and into their own permanent residence can seem overwhelming. However, it can be done. Since its creation in 1922, the Miami Rescue Mission - which now also has shelters in Broward County has been working to help people transition from the streets to their own homes. The Miami Times spoke with two residents of the non-profit organization, the Miami Rescue Mission/Broward Outreach Centers, to hear about their struggles to permanently get off of the streets. A brick layer by trade, 33-year old William Williams had been living in North Carolina where drugs and alcohol had hampered his ability to work and provide for himself. My addictions had gotten out of control in North Carolina, so I decided to come here [to South Florida] to get a break from my problems, but you know your problems follow you wherever you go unless you work on it, he explained. Casey Angel, the communications manager for the Miami Rescue Mission, explained that there are many different reasons for people to become homeless although typically a lot of times they became homeless because they spent a lot of their money on alcohol and drugs and theres always that temptation of falling into the same habits. Beyond the emergency shelter and daily meals it offers, the Miami Rescue Mission also offers a longer term residency program where participants are allowed to live and utilize their various services which includes drug counseling, and even education courses. Known simply as the program, the basic requirements need residents to be sober, attain their GED, and depending on which campus, take a job training course or volunteer at the center itself. After these requirements are reached, residents are considered to have graduated from the program. After living for a month on the streets of Miami, Williams learned about the program and decided to give it a try. I just got sick and tired of doing the same thing over and over again, so I decided to better my life, he said. So, the determined young man became a dedicated participant of the programs drug and alcohol program to remain sober and also got his high school diploma. Now he is enrolled in Miami Dade College and studying forensics psychology. I think [the program] is the best thing thats happened to my life and I know I can look forward to the future in a positive way, Williams said. Eighteen months after he first entered the doors of the non-profit organization, Williams graduated from the institution on Saturday, Jan. 21st along with over 130 other students. Among the graduates was also Orlando Smith. For Smith, 45, the road to homelessness began with on-the-job injuries that eventually prevented him from being able to perform his duties as an x-ray technician in Atlanta. He lost his job and soon became overwhelmed by bills. By December 2009, he was homeless. I lost everything thats why I came to the Miami Rescue Mission to try to get my life back on track, he said. Living at the center for the past 20 months, Smith received counseling as well as assistance on how to apply for state benefits for his disability. Although, he benefitted materially from the program, Smith also credits the mission with deepening his spirituality, where he learned to have a patience and get closer to God and believe that He is going to take care of my problems my needs. However, although the men are officially done with the program, they can remain connected to their colleagues at the Miami Rescue Missions Alumni Association, with chapters active in South Florida as well as a variety of other states, according to Angel. For more information about Miami Rescue Mission, please visit www.miamirescuemission.com. By Kaila Heard kheard@miamitimesonline.com