Larry’s story also appeared in the Catholic Courier on April 5, 2016.
Larry is living proof that addiction is a powerful thing. For more than fifteen years, his need for heroin plagued his life. His compulsion led to years in prison and tremendous loss…never knowing his children, homelessness, and alienation from his family and friends. “I truly and honestly never thought I’d be homeless…When you’ve lived in a house for 10 years, when you’ve got control of the bills and it’s a smooth ride. I was in complete control until I let the drug come into my life. The manageability of that and the high, I just lost control. I’m not pointing the finger at anybody. I’m at fault, I take full responsibility.”
In the fall of 2015, Larry was released from prison. A 55-year-old recovering addict, Larry had no home, no job, and no earthly possessions. With nowhere else to go, Larry found refuge at Catholic Charities’ Second Place East (SPE) Homeless Shelter. This wasn’t his first stay at the shelter, but this time would be different. After years of struggling with addiction, Larry came to the door with something more – motivation. He wanted to change and he was willing to do what it took to get it. When asked about Catholic Charities, Larry states, “their help is endless. It’s a program where they’ll hold your hand to a certain degree, but you’ve got to help yourself too. They’re not going to enable you all through the transition from homelessness, but they’ll walk you to the door and say ‘hey, you really need to utilize the help.’”
Larry took that help and applied it. He not only attended the necessary meetings for his sobriety and other services, but he spent his remaining time volunteering for Catholic Charities. Giving back to the Agency he refers to as “a spectacular help, more than words can express. I do as much volunteer work as possible. Somebody’s got to do it; I would like to be the one out of everyone to step forward.”
Larry’s kind heart is also visible when he talks about his youngest daughter and their recent reunion. “I was devastated because I was a terrible parent growing up.” Larry was in the transition of going to prison when his wife got pregnant. “I missed out on being there. I was staring at this child…mesmerized. She’s in college, studying to be a computer analyst. She was so morally intelligent, beyond sophisticated for an 18-year-old.” Larry also talks about the humbling experience of another man raising his children…“Humbly, meekly, modestly, I owe him a lot of gratitude and respect, because he raised my kids, probably better than…” There is a brief pause while tears fill Larry’s eyes. He then continues, “Probably better than me.”
The next chapter of Larry’s life looks positive. With the help of Catholic Charities’ Gateways Community Living Program, Larry moved into his own apartment. This new path offers Larry the independence of his own home, with the support of case management. Even if Larry slips along the way, one single mistake won’t undo all of his hard work. “It’s relatively hard picking up the broken pieces of the past. I feel enthusiastic with moving forward and getting my own place, getting familiar with my daughter and maybe being some sort of support in her life.”