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Matt Wallace

I’m Ready…

April 5, 2010 | By | No Comments

by zach smith

When I first met “Sarah”, she was eight months pregnant, living on the streets, helplessly addicted to heroin and cocaine, discarded, and let down by everyone in her life who was supposed to love her most. Now, nearly two years later, not a day goes by that I am not haunted by her story. Not a day goes by that my heart does not ache for her. Not a day goes by that I am not overwhelmed with love for who she is and hope for what she could be.

This afternoon I ate a quick lunch and headed downtown. I asked God to open my eyes to see people and places with love and compassion. I prayed that God would let me find Sarah.

As I walked the streets, my mind wandered to the previous day. It was a hard day. I had spent hours looking for several friends, including Sarah, to no avail. I finally turned around and went back to the office close to 4:00. Less than an hour later, on my way home, I drove past Sarah’s usual spot – the crack block – for another look. I saw her there, stumbling back and forth, weighing what had to have been 20 pounds less than when I saw her last. She looked awful. The hardest thing I did that day; the hardest thing I ever do, is watch her disappear out of sight in my rearview mirror.

But this was a new day, and I set out to find her. I walked for a long time up and down the blocks that have become very familiar to me. I decided to walk to her usual corner just to see if she was there. I immediately recognized her from a distance. Her blond hair was tied up, and her clothes were dirty and hanging loosely from her shrunken frame. Scars and sores freckled her face and arms, signs of the HIV that poisons her and the addiction that holds her captive. She was smoking heroin, an improvement in her eyes, from shooting the toxin intravenously. She was surrounded by fellow addicts. There was no way I could get to her. I walked slowly by, hoping that she would see me, but she didn’t. As I walked away, feeling like a coward, I prayed that God would send her to me. ‘That is the only way this is going to work, Lord. I can’t get to her, so send her to me.’ I prayed this over and over as I walked back towards the 16th Street Mall. I found a couple of other kids and spent some time with them. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was still a chance to talk to Sarah today. We had been looking for her for so long and I had finally found her. I began to summon the courage to go back to the block. This could be my only chance to see her. I had to try.

I walked the seven blocks as fast as I could, knowing that every second counted. It was getting late in the afternoon and I didn’t know when she was going to leave. For all I knew, she had already gone on and I had missed my chance. I neared the block and saw her. I hadn’t stopped praying that God would make something happen. I decided to wait on the corner opposite from where she was standing. She still didn’t see me and again I prayed that God would send her my way. A minute or two passed. Nothing happened. But then, she restlessly stood up. Before I knew it, she was walking my direction on the opposite side of the street. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here I was, praying that God would make it work out; that He would send her to me, and that is exactly what happened.

I quietly spoke her name as she got closer to where I stood. She looked up, confused at first, and then melted into tears and shame. Other times when we see her, she will run to us with open arms, half smiling and half crying. Today was different. I had never seen her look so defeated; so broken. She hung her head and hid her face in her hands as she walked towards me and into my arms. Her shoulders shook as she cried. She didn’t even try to stifle it.

Through sobs she told me that she just wanted to make us proud and that she was sorry and ashamed that I had to see her so strung out. Of course, this was just an opportunity for me to tell her that, though it breaks my heart to see her like this, I, and everyone else at Dry Bones, love her no matter what she’s doing. She told me that her family had given up on her and that she hadn’t talked to them in over a year. She said that she had no friends on the streets anymore. She spends her days among a sea of faces, in a crowd that couldn’t care less about her.

I got to tell her that God has a better plan, and that He desperately loves her. She talked for a few minutes about how much she wanted God in her life. She said that she just can’t, and doesn’t want to, live without Him anymore. As we talked, sitting there on the sidewalk, she simply couldn’t stop crying. With every word of love that God gave me to give to her, she broke down more. I told her how much I loved her and that the other Dry Bones staff loved her too. Then she said those magic words, “I’m ready to get out of here.”

What Does Dry Bones Mean to You? (video)

February 2, 2010 | By | No Comments

Thoughts from a few friends when asked, “What does Dry Bones mean to you?”

As our friends say some really nice things in this video, we instantly think of their impact on our lives! =The awesome impact of an “Us” environment. Our lives are changed (…and changing) forever because of this thing called Dry Bones.

Mickey’s Story (video)

November 11, 2009 | By | No Comments

Mickey lived on the streets from age 14 and is now clean off of heroin and is living off the streets. Mickey shares a part of his life’s story with the world.

Street-views (2)

August 10, 2009 | By | No Comments

Interviews with Caitlyn, Angelina, Gremlin, Jess, Elizabeth, Kaili, Solomon, Cowboy, Dealy, Tamika, and Eddie

WHEN IN LIFE DO YOU FEEL MOST “IN CONTROL?”

Caitlyn: When I know exactly what’s happening. When I know I have a place to eat, and when I know I have something to eat.

Angelina: When I’m doing the dishes (laughing). Because when I’m done, they are done. I choose if the water is hot or cold.

Gremlin: Behind the wheel of a car. I’ve been driving them since I was 12 and I like to race.

Jess: When I’m not in a bad mood.

Elizabeth: When I’m having fun. When you are having fun, you do what you want to do. Like I’m having fun right now at bowling…so I’m in control.

Kaili: When I’m in a good mood.

Solomon: Most of the time, just about anywhere.

Cowboy: When I’m horse back riding because I have a connection with the horse.

Dealy: All the time…I have to be doing my plans all the time.

Tamika: When I’m in a good mood.

Eddie: When I’m upset and I have my anger under control, but I’m not blowing up. When I’m at work and I get to make my own decisions.

WHEN IN LIFE DO YOU FEEL MOST “OUT OF CONTROL?”

Caitlyn: When I’m on the streets. Absolutely nothing is in your control. You never know what’s going to happen day to day.

Angelina: When I’m high and depressed….when I stop caring.

Grimlin: In a relationship because it’s not my life to control, it’s ours. I don’t have full control.

Jess: Depression. I get depressed on holidays and my birthday.

Elizabeth: When I’m in a bad mood or things don’t go like I want them to.

Kaili: When I’m angry and aggravated…I feel like I want to punch someone in the face.

Solomon: When I’m working – You have bosses and people above you!

Cowboy: When I’m in the middle of the city…I’m not in my natural environment.

Dealy: When my plans don’t go my way.

Tamika: When I feel peer pressure.

Eddie: When I get stressed out or family leaves.

WHAT DO YOU CONTROL IN YOUR LIFE?

Caitlyn: I honestly don’t know what I control. I don’t even control myself when I’m off my meds.

Angelina: How many cigarettes I smoke (laughing). That’s about it. I don’t control much. It’s a good thing I’m not a control freak.

Grimlin: Whether or not I’m still alive. I have complete control if I kill myself…whether or not I take a drug that I know will kill me…whether or not I mess with someone who will kill me.

Jess: My family. By helping them out with stuff. I try to make sure that everything’s O.K.

Elizabeth: The way I feel and the way I do things. I do things in my own perspective, not just how people want me to do it.

Kaili: My little sister (laughing)….I don’t know.

Solomon: What I want to do, what I don’t want to do.

Cowboy: My destiny. Everybody makes choices in life, and the choices we make lead to who we become.

Dealy: My anger, money situations, food situation, shelter.

Tamika: Everything.

Eddie: My mind, my thoughts.

WHAT CAUSES YOUR LIFE TO GO OUT OF CONTROL (assuming you’ve felt out of control before)?

Caitlyn: Going off my meds.

Angelina: My depression. When I start self-medicating. Loneliness causes my depression.

Grimlin: Living in a meth-house because I had meth handed to me all day long….I didn’t say “no”.

Jess: People I’m close to passing away.

Elizabeth: My bipolarness sets me out of control. If I’m trying to do something and it doesn’t go my way, it flips my switch.

Kaili: When someone lays hands on me. I can’t control myself.

Solomon: Drama usually. When people make up stories or threaten to destroy something you love.

Cowboy: Myself. We have the choice to let people affect us or not affect us.

Dealy: Me…I’ll keep it at that!

Tamika: When people want you to do drugs.

Eddie: Drugs and alcohol. I was a major druggy. I’ve lost a good job, almost my license to doing drugs. I’ve been sober for almost 4 months.

Interview with Charles and Amanda

April 4, 2009 | By | No Comments

Charles and Amanda attended a Dry Bones weekly Bible study at a home for about a year in 2007. A strong friendship was built between us over those months. This interview gives the couple’s perspective on becoming homeless, living on the streets, encountering good friends and eventually Christ there, and finally finding their way out.

I appreciate this interview each time I read it because it introduces us to one of hundreds of stories of how young people end up on the streets.  Thanks to Charles and Amanda for boldly sharing your story with us.

Charles and Amanda have both been off of the streets since 2008.  We are still in touch with Charles.  Amanda – if you find this old interview, send us a message!  We would love to hear from you.

Nikki: What was the chain of events that led to you being on the street?

Amanda: My mom and I got into a heated argument and my mom told me I had two choices to make and one of those choices was to pack up and leave or leave Charles and I wasn’t going to do the second one, so him and I said the only other choice is to leave.

Charles: We packed up even before she said to leave. We packed up everything we could and threw it out a second story window in the back and left.

Nikki: What has your relationship with your mom been like in the past?

Amanda: My relationship with my mom has always been stressful from the time I was like six on. With her working and not knowing what’s going on with me, and pots and pans being thrown at me, and just different things.

Nikki: Would you say that she was abusive?

Amanda: Physically, no, but emotionally, yes.

Nikki: Did you come straight to Downtown Denver?

Charles: We kind of piddled around (our suburb) for a few days. Then we went to the police for help but they wouldn’t lift a finger to help.

Amanda: (Our hometown) police are the type of police that don’t care, so we came downtown. The downtown police actually cared. There were cops that told me to keep warm.

Charles: One night (a guy) was messing with us. The police had us identify him and told us to wait right where we were because it was the warmest place; it was out of the wind. Then two hours later a security guard came by and boots us out with no reason. We told him that the police officer told us to stay there until it got warmer, until the next morning when we could leave.

Amanda: But I didn’t want to cause any drama or get in trouble. He could have arrested us. I didn’t know what he would do so we just left and walked the streets for six hours that night.

Charles: We walked down to The 16th Street Mall, slept on the Free Mall Ride for two hours until the driver told us to get off because he was taking the car back to the garage.

Amanda: And that’s when we found that there was a church that we could go to that might tell us where to go.

Charles: The day before we had gone to Trinity United Methodist Church and there were two weddings going on. One had just ended, one was about to start and the wedding coordinator knew of Jenny at Urban Peak [a shelter for homeless youth]. She called Urban Peak, and they told us to go to Urban Peak to get an intake. When we got there, a police officer was there which scared us. So we went to 7-Eleven where we met a guy who offered for us to stay at a motel room that he had. We stayed with him for a week, but he was really bossy so after that week we decided to go back to Urban Peak.

Nikki: So how did you feel during those three weeks on the streets?

Amanda: Scared…scared.  We didn’t know anybody, we didn’t know where to turn, just really scared.

Charles: We had turned to the police to try to get hotel vouchers. They would do it for Amanda but not for me. The laws are crazy when it comes to the homeless.

Nikki: How long were you on the streets?

Charles: Three weeks.

Nikki: What was life like on the streets?

Amanda: We were scared of not knowing what was going on day to day.

Charles: Finding a place to sleep.

Amanda: We met some friends that said we should go to Urban Peak and that Urban Peak would be the best place for us to stay right now. And it kinda was. There was a lot of people who helped us in hard times.

Charles: While we were on the street, there were people telling us where to go and what to do during those three weeks. We were lucky we had the cell phone I had which saved our lives. We used it to call the police one night.

Nikki: Describe “the hard times.”

Amanda: Beating each other up, saying, “You caused this. Why are we here?” Just emotional beating up.

Nikki: What time of the year was it?

Amanda: October. It was getting colder. It hadn’t really snowed yet. But it was really cold. We didn’t have sweatshirts.  We didn’t even have blankets.

Charles: We had thin jackets. We had all of our luggage.

Nikki: Describe some of the places you slept.

Amanda: A closet type thing, but not really. A parking garage. It was the exit to the underground parking garage. There were concrete blocks that came out on a ledge. We slept on that and tried to pass the time away by playing cards, reading, talking…

Charles: . . . trying to calm each other down, lift each other’s spirits. It was hard. For just people new to the streets, it was just hard.

Amanda: We didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know the state of Colorado well enough to be on my own, to be on the street. I just knew the Denver International Airport area. I knew how to get going wherever in that sense. But as far as getting downtown or Westminster Mall or whatever, I didn’t know.

Charles: The little money we had we spent on food.

Nikki: How did you get your money?

Charles: Left over money from my cash advance and a bit of left over money from the last job I had before I came out here.

Amanda: That caused us to have like $200. So it was like, eat and…

Charles: This one lady that was addicted to crack, smoked it, she let us spend over night in her apartment.  Then, she stole $50 from my wallet.

Amanda: and a $100 from mine and that was the money that we were supposed to have to eat.

Nikki: So what did you do?

Amanda: What could we do? We left.

Charles: The lighters we had for any cigarettes we did have for me, she used up all of those. She spent all night smoking crack. She even ripped a lamp out of her wall and went down to sell it and buy a dime bag of crack.

Nikki: So what did help look like for you?

Amanda: The most useful help was Urban Peak. If it hadn’t been for the people we knew at Urban Peak, we would still be on the streets now. They gave us food, shelter, a place to sleep, tips to learn hygiene, case management. They did so much.

Nikki: What brought you into contact with Dry Bones?

Charles: Mandy (a girl that was attending the Monday night Bible study) told us that there was a Bible study that Dry Bones was doing and that there might be people that we could come to for advice. And the first time that we came to the Bible study it was like… I knew that there was so much help that you guys could offer spiritually that we couldn’t do by ourselves. And then after that first time we just constantly went. We just kept going.

Nikki: What brought you to the place in your life that you decided you needed a change?

Amanda: I knew that the street life wasn’t for me. I knew that if I wanted to be on the streets, I could still be on the streets. We needed a steady place to stay.

Charles: I didn’t want to worry about knowing where I’m going to sleep next, where I’m going to eat, and a million other things you have to worry about when you’re on the streets. Drugs, alcohol, it just wasn’t a life I could live. It wasn’t the life I was raised to live. I was raised in a happy home. When I was back at home, I thought…homeless…I’ll never be homeless. And then when it hit me that I was homeless, I was shocked. I decided that we had to find help somewhere and we’ve got to do it now. So we made that extra effort to have my cell phone there with us so that we could call if we needed help. We ate a couple meals at the Denver Rescue Mission. We tried to get into the Samaritan House but they were full. A lot has happened since we hit the streets.

Amanda: I was getting so stressed at Urban Peak. So Jenny put me into a room by myself with a pen and paper and told me to write my thoughts. When I started writing my thoughts it turned into poetry.

Nikki: What brought you to spiritual change in your life?

Amanda: I knew I had to do something with my life and I had that grasp of “You need to either sit down and talk to God about this or you need to close up.” I didn’t want to close up so one night I knelt down and I said “If there’s another way, show me.” And God showed me by bringing us to the Catholic Worker House [where they were living at the time of this interview], keeping us fed, keeping us clean, and just making sure we were safe.

Nikki: What did Christ have to do with your decision to change?

Amanda: Every time I’d go to sleep…You know that feeling of someone watching you but you can’t see it…He would be like you need to wake up, you are in trouble. So I knew that He was watching and that He was there. He was pushing me.

Nikki: What are your vision and goals for yourself over the next few months to a year?

Amanda: Getting an apartment and having a healthy kid (Amanda is four months pregnant).

Charles: Finding steady work. That’s been the biggest thing right now.

Nikki: What has been your spiritual journey since you’ve been on the streets?

Amanda: Trying to find God. I’ve explored witchcraft, I’ve done Wicca; I’ve tried it all. But they were never satisfying to me. There is power in witchcraft, there is power in Wicca, but there is so much more power and Love in Christianity. I’m following God now, not anything I’ve ever tried in the past. I’m following God and the Bible. If I have any questions, I go to God or to a pastor. I don’t follow all these different pathways because that is what the devil is trying to get me to do. There’s just not enough love and power in Wicca or witchcraft that can satisfy my need.

Charles: God was the only one I followed. I may have fallen away from Him, but I have always put my trust in Him.

Nikki: Is there anything else that you want to share?

Amanda: People don’t understand. It’s just trying so hard to get off of the streets, to pick yourself up, to say, “Look there is another way, you’ve just got to do it.” No one is going to do it for you.

Charles: You have to find that help on your own, but once you find it you have to let people help you.

Amanda: Dry Bones gave me assurance that there is spiritual help out there and knowledge that if something goes wrong, you can look to a higher power and ask for help. God’s not going to take a look at you and turn the other way. And that’s what Dry Bones has not done is look at people on the streets and turned the other way. Street kids can always call; they always have the staffs’ phone number. No matter who they are or what their religion is, Dry Bones has not turned their back on people. They don’t push the Bible down people’s throat like [another church]. Dry Bones knows that they are working with people from Christians to Wiccans. There’s a huge difference there, and Dry Bones did not turn their back on any of these people. And that is what I like about Dry Bones is you can connect or just get away from day to day life but be your own self. You don’t have to hide things from the Dry Bones people. They don’t preach down your throat. You guys never turned your back on us. That’s why I respect Dry Bones and what they’re doing, because it’s not another church and it’s not another youth group. That’s why I always go to Bible study every Monday.

Charles: Being a Christian has been hard all my life. Knowing people that are Wicca or pagan or into witchcraft. I was always persecuted. I came out here and wanted to find a church or people I could relate to, spend time with, be with, make friends with and Dry Bones has done that. They relate to our generation. It’s not like any other church I’ve ever been to. Dry Bones is about God and love. They love everyone.

My First Day at Dry Bones Lunch . . . no, “Bible Study”

April 2, 2009 | By | No Comments

My First Day at Dry Bones Lunch . . . no, “Bible Study”
by LaDawn

One Wednesday, I decided to go downtown to see what was going on down there. I thought, “Maybe I could find some of my friends and hang out with them.” I saw Cheeto and Bob, and we started to talk. Then Matt showed up, and they started to leave. As I watched them walk away, this loneliness came over me. They got to the car and I yelled out, “Where y’all going?” They looked back and said, “Come with us!” So I went with them. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Matt pulled into this big tan and yellow house. I could smell the food inside. Oh man, was I hungry. I hadn’t eaten for a couple of days. I wanted to run inside and start grabbing everything in sight, but I thought to myself, “Wait a minute LaDawn. You can’t do that.” First of all, it would be rude. Second, they would probably look at you like, “What is this crazy black person doing?” I was raised better then that. So I let everybody go inside first. I turned my music on, and pulled down my hat so that nobody could see me but I could still see them. Then I opened the door to the house. Wow! It was big! I’d never been in a house that was this huge. OK, LaDawn, pull yourself together. Food! There was so much food. When I came up the stairs, I found the living room. I thought, “Maybe if I sit here nobody will notice me.” “Hi, LaDawn.” Oh man, I’ve been spotted. I’d never felt my heart beat so fast. I looked up and saw Nikki was standing over me. She said, “Hi,” and that it was really good to see me here. “Time to eat,” someone else said. I sat there for a moment. Nikki turned back to me and said, “Come on LaDawn.” I looked at all of the food that sat from one end of the table to the other; it was making my mouth water! Then I looked back at Nikki. Oh well, what the heck. I guess it won’t hurt me. So I walked halfway to the table. Man, I felt like a little kid on their first day of school. My hands were sweaty, and my heart was beating fast. I told myself again, “It’s just lunch.” (That’s what I thought at first.) So, I turned to the table, and I chose to sit next to Nikki. Everybody started to make their plates, so I started to make mine too. Their plates had a lot of food on them! I put half a serving of food on my plate and very little of the other stuff I had never eaten before. I didn’t know if these people were good cooks. What if I had to walk away and spit the food out? They would notice that. “Lets pray. Who wants to pray? Cheeto? Bob?” Robbie asked both of them and they both said, “No.” So I started to pray to myself with my eyes open looking around the table at each of them. “Please God, don’t let them ask me to pray. Oh please God, I don’t want them to ask me! Oh please!” “Ok, I will,” Robbie finally said after a second. Thank you God! My mind started to wonder while Robbie was praying over the food. I wondered how this food would really taste; then, “AMEN.” “Yum! It smells good, Karen,” Matt said. I looked at him like he was crazy; thinking to myself, “Ain’t you suppose to eat the food first before you say it’s good?” Then I heard, “Who are you? I’ve never met you before?” I turned my head to see this beautiful lady. Her hair was reddish brown in color and her eyes were green. Oh man, I have to talk while I’m eating? Don’t these people know not to talk to a black person while they are eating? Well, maybe other black people can talk and eat at the same time, but not me. The next thing I knew the whole table went quiet; so quiet that you could hear the school kids playing and laughing and having a good time outside. I looked around the table hoping they weren’t watching me, but they were. I wasn’t going to get away from this woman. My mind was thinking so fast, and I was trying to come up with some option of what to say. “Fast . . . come on . . . hurry up! They’re all watching me!” But there was no way I was going to get away from this person. Come on and hurry up. They’re all staring at me. I have to make up my mind and say something. What should I do? 1. I could run out of the house but wait, LaDawn, you don’t even know where you are. I know I’m too far from Denver. The mountains are so close! 2. I can pretend I can’t hear. 3. Just answer the damn lady. Quit making things so damn hard in your life. Ok. . . Ok, here goes. “Hi, my name is LaDawn.” “See LaDawn, it wasn’t so hard,” I told myself. “My name is Karen.” I decided I could tell her a little bit about me. Everybody got done with lunch. Man, I needed a cigarette to top off the food. I just scarfed it down and was ready to go back downtown. Everybody started to move to the living room and get comfortable. Wait a minute, what’s going on? Why ain’t we going to the car? Oh please don’t let it be what I think it is. I sat in the chair to try to get comfortable myself; then I looked up. They were passing round a black book with gold letters on the front of it. One of these books came to me. I read the top of the book, “The Holy Bible.” I looked up from that Bible. This is what I got myself into?! “Everybody turn to the book of Matthew,” Robbie said. He told us the page number, but I didn’t open it. He started talking about the last supper Jesus had. I looked at the Bible again and thought to myself, “Why should I join in on this Bible study? What has God done for me in my 22 years on this earth? I have been to hell and back! Why should I be listening to this bullshit? He loves me and wants a personal relationship with me?! Where was He when I needed him the most in my life? I bet these people want me to give my life to Him. If only these people knew what I have been through!” So, I decided to take a little nap. “It won’t hurt,” I told myself while I was getting a little more comfortable. I put on my music and made sure that nobody could hear it and then pulled down on the bill of my hat making sure that they couldn’t tell that I had fallen asleep on them. I woke up just as they finished the Bible study. Wow, I woke up just in time. I looked around to see if they knew that I went to sleep on them, but they didn’t. (However, I did get caught a couple of months later.) I started to come every week after that day. It’s 3 years later. Now, I come up the stairs and Karen will be the first person I hug and say hi to. I have my own seat at the table. Other street kids come and go. I used to come to Bible study just for the food and the people and to take a nap. Every week I felt my tough heart change about the Lord our God bit by bit. I came to understand that He wants me to come back, and He wants the best for me. When Robbie asks questions in Bible study now, I speak what I think about the question. Back then, I would just listen to what people were saying about God and Jesus. I’ve been coming to Bible study for a few years but that isn’t enough for me anymore. So this year I started going to church with Nikki and Matt. From weekly Bible study and church every Sunday, I’m getting closer to the Lord our God. I’m not yet there. There is still an issue that me and Him have to work out. I want to thank everyone for reading this story and for letting me in your heart. Thank you for befriending me. May the Lord bless everyone who reads this story and for everyone who supports Dry Bones.

Desaree

March 28, 2009 | By | No Comments

Desaree is one of our dearest friends. She and her husband, Bruno, attend our Wednesday Bible study at the Goldman’s house. This is her story in her own words…

How do you start a story that has no ending yet? Well, I guess the best way to start is the beginning.

When I was born, December 6, 1982, my mother waited two weeks before we left. We went from Texas to California where she and some guy robbed a liquor store. After that, we went straight to Colorado.

Once we were here, she met a guy named Leroy. Leroy and her would party all the time. When they were in the middle of it he would stop just long enough to beat me into unconsciousness everyday until I was two. I lived with my grandma until they found out she drank too. After that, I went from a foster home to a family. For some reason, the mother started beating me. So, I left there back to a foster home until I was adopted to the family I have now when I was almost four.

When I was almost six, my mom now started abusing me. Yelling, hitting, and being just mean. But, I had my dad who is still awesome that took me away when I was 9. We were happy until I turned 11 and we went to Guam.

Once in Guam, he was working so much. Everything from my past just started coming up. I was hanging out with the children in the complex a lot. There were three boys ages 14, 15, and 16. They started coming over to our house and raping me everyday. I was young, and they said they would kill my dad if I told. We left Guam 8 months later. I did have some fun out there though.

When we came back to the States, I was different. I was hurt, angry, and very scared. So I started experimenting with drugs and booze. Soon, I started running away. First it was to my “friends” house. His dad molested me. He made me think that it was ok.

Then, I ran again. This time, instead of to my “friends”, I ran to downtown. I got raped and beat up more times than I can remember. One time I got so sick I died for a couple of minutes in the hospital from a paratonsular abscess which caused pneumonia and repertory failure of both lungs. After that I was locked up for 10 months; 24/7 therapy. It helped so much, but that still didn’t stop the rest…

While I was in Jefferson Hills, I tried to reconcile with my mom. She refused to come to see me. I had very rarely seen her since my dad and I left at age nine. That little piece you will understand later.

While I was in Jefferson Hills, the youth residential treatment center, I tried to make friends. I’m always trying to get people to like me. I just tried to find people to love me and stick around even if they treated me horrible. As long as they stuck around, I stuck around no matter what! So I made friends with one girl in particular. I thought she was great. She said horrible things behind my back. Ok. She quit talking to me. Ok. She told some gangsters I did something and she almost got me jumped. Ok. Her name was Lynn. Lynn introduced me to a man named Michael after I was released.

Now, while I was better than I was before Jefferson Hills, I still had a lot of hurt inside of me. I ended up being with Michael for six years – the whole time maintaining a loose relationship with Lynn. Michael, at first, was a drug dealer. I got all the drugs I wanted and ended up running away again and getting addicted to speed.

My dad called my caseworker about six months later. I weighed 80 pounds. I was sent to the mountains for two months, and then I went to a group home. I immediately contacted Michael. He was 18 and I was 14.

I went to a wedding and got high on marijuana. But I went back to the group home this time. I started going to school and meeting new people. Tina, the group home mom, put me on urinalysis tests to make sure I was sober. I did very well and quit everything finally “getting the point” (for now). Things were ok. I got into trouble but not so bad as before. About one year later, my dad was forced to take me back. He didn’t want to, which is understandable, but I had problems with Tina. I tried to continue school, but when I turned 16, I decided school wasn’t right for me. I dropped out.

A couple months past December, my dad did something. Because I was mad at him for doing something I considered unforgivable, I got pregnant. To him, getting pregnant was unforgivable.

As soon as I told Michael that I was pregnant, he quit talking to me and we broke up. When I started to miscarry the first time, I spotted my mom. She came and sat with me at the hospital. When I really started to miscarry, my mom was gone. I don’t know where she went. I called Michael. He refused to take me to the hospital, alienating me from his life. He was constantly doing that. My dad refused to take me also. Everyone did except my best friend’s dad. Shortly after this, I went into my first deep depression.

I stayed in my room only leaving it to eat, shower, and go to the bathroom for six months. I just wanted to die – I couldn’t even make a baby right. Somehow, I got back with Michael and started using drugs here and there again and lying to my dad. I also started to believe in God, but I hated Him at first being angry because I didn’t understand how he could let everything happen to me. When I was 17, I read the quote, “Without pain and suffering, there would be no compassion in this world.” That made sense to me. I wasn’t angry anymore with God, but I didn’t understand the love of Christ. So, I continued with my destructive life.

The day I turned 18, my dad gave me $1,000 and told me to pack up and hit the bricks. I lived in a motel for about two months until the money was gone.

Then I moved in with Michael and his brother. I got my first job and got fired the first day. Feeling discouraged, I just did drugs with Michael and his brother a lot of the time and did the things tweekers do – you know, running around and stuff. I got my GED that year when I was almost 19. Michael’s brother went to jail and lost his apartment, so we moved in with their mom. I started working at a gas station. I quit. I worked at another one and quit that one too. I started going to college and moved back to my dad’s.

I spent five years with Michael and regularly dealt with verbal abuse from his family. They were constantly making fun of me and I just put up with Michael’s head games. Somehow, he talked me into an abortion, even though I never believed in it. Just before that, I met Brian. I left Michael many times to be with Brian, but I always went back to Michael.

Needless to say, I met my future husband that year, but the hardest and most painful time was yet to come. God Bless the rest of this . . . To Be Continued.

Street-views

February 1, 2009 | By | No Comments

Here are a few questions and responses from several of my friends who are currently or have recently been houseless.

This interview was included in our Winter ’09 paper newsletter. Please sign up for future newsletters HERE.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY….
Plague: I’d be in the mountains on a sunny day with no people and no problems. Or I’d be on a boat in the middle of the ocean.

Robyn: No police contact and good panhandling.

Crystal: Carton of cigs, 12 pack of Corona, watching Wrestle-Mania.

Mystika: Wake up in the morning – I’d be married, have kids, cook breakfast (blueberry pancakes and bacon). Pack kid’s lunches and send them to school and work. Cook treats all day. Work in my backyard garden that I designed myself. Take pictures of my kids when they come home. Have family time. Do homework together. Just a bunch of stuff a family does. Put them to sleep. Read them a book. Watch them sleep.

Nacho: Waking up, going to work, having cigs, and having no debt. Relaxing at the end of the evening and then going to bed.

Keri: Spending time with kids; paradise; no war; no poverty; no starvation; no death.

Richie: Waking up next to a beautiful woman. Being at the right place at the right time. Working and then enjoying an evening after work with friends and family.

Roberta: Getting up, making breakfast for the kids, sending them to school, going to work, coming home, cooking dinner, family time, putting kids to bed.
DESCRIBE WINTER ON THE STREETS IN A COUPLE OF WORDS…
Plague: Not copasetic.

Robyn: Loneliness, harsh, unforgiving.

Zillionaire: Drink as much water as you can to stay alive, wear as many layers as you have or else you’ll freeze, and they get dirty.

Tino: Cold and uncaring.

Crystal: Very, very cold and no sleep – hard to sleep when you are that cold.

Nacho: Long, cold, lonely.

Keri: Hell, straight up hell. Cold, lonely, harassed, “Move you’re a**!”, “Get away from that heater!”

Mystika: Freezing, scared, shelterless, always on the move, cuddle with people to keep warm.

Richie: Cold, insecure, doubtful, suicidal, alone, wishful, ambivalent, unaccepted.

Roberta: I don’t remember anymore. Ha – I must have been crazy!

WHERE’S THE MOST INTERESTING PLACE YOU’VE EVER SLEPT?
Roberta: In the basement of the old abandoned Silos. Me and John drug a couch down there. Urban Peak heard that we were down there and came to check on us.

LaDawn: (laughs) Outside.

Keri: On the heater grates on Stout Street by the Convention Center.

DO YOU SEE OR EXPERIENCE GOD ON THE STREETS?
Plague: Yeah, everyday

Robyn: All the feedings and help for the homeless is sponsored by churches/people who help. I’m not as violent as I use to be since I’ve become a Christian.

Tino: A smile and an encouraging word.

Crystal: The other night when I got stranded, friends helped me out and I got to stay at a church.

Nacho: Every day, whenever I see people getting along. I experience God whenever I go somewhere and I get this feeling that I shouldn’t go and then I find out something bad happened where I almost went. I experience God when I see people getting along.

Keri: I asked God, “Where are you?” and He was there for me. He directed me where to go. He sent me to the police department.

Mystika: I’ve noticed that in my bad times, I have more strength than before I knew God. When I’m down I ask His guidance, and I feel myself getting stronger, and I feel warmth within my body.

Richie: I think that God is looking after me because after everything I’ve been through, He hasn’t necessarily provided me with a security blanket, but he’s provided me with the resources I need to survive.

Roberta: I met this guy downtown once. When he found out we were sleeping in the Silos, he took us to Biggs and bought us sleeping bags, lights, food, and warm cloths. He even gave me a job. I worked for him for months.

LaDawn: When I attempted suicide, He brought me out, and now I appreciate life more. I was 17.

WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES YOU OPEN TO TALK ABOUT GOD TO SOME PEOPLE, BUT NOT OTHERS?
Robyn: It takes a personal relationship.

Zillionaire: Anyone that’s intelligent and not condemning.

Tino: Dry Bones or Scum of the Earth Church because they have taken the time, energy, and effort to build a relationship with me and not just condemn, criticize, and judge me.

Crystal: If it’s a conversation where I don’t feel targeted.

Nacho: People who actually want to talk about God and don’t want just to argue their point. Someone who’s open to God, not just their concept of God. I don’t want to argue about your concept of God! I want to talk about how God loves us.

Keri: Body language. I won’t talk to people who resent us the whole time they are trying to help us.

Mystika: The approach that they take, like with Dry Bones, they let you know God in your own way, at your own pace. You give us time to find God. Other people just throw Him at you. You are always there to answer questions and help us to know more about God.

Richie: I’m open to talk about God with people, but I have a problem with people who try to argue a point of view and are ignorant and aren’t open-minded.

WHAT DOES THE WORD “CHRISTIAN” MEAN TO YOU?
Roberta: I don’t know exactly. The word “Christian” used to scare me. You guys really opened my eyes to a new way of looking at Christians. Now it’s what I strive to be.

Keri: Christ-like; a loving lifestyle.

THIS IS GOING OUT TO PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT DRY BONES AND WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT WHAT GOES ON HERE IN DENVER. DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY TO THE PEOPLE READING THIS INTERVIEW?
Robyn: The immenseness of their love is amazing. Keep up the good work.

Plague: Thanks for all your help!

Tino: Thank you so much for supporting an amazing ministry.

Crystal: This is a great place to hang out and if you ever need help, you guys are the ones to go to.

Nacho: Dry Bones does a lot of good for a lot of people. Dry Bones is a good place to start to get help. People shouldn’t take advantage of these guys.

Keri: Thank you! You are REAL Christians. You are not Rice-Christians. You guys really care about us. You are like family to us! [Rice-Christians, according to Keri, are, “…those who just serve you a bowl rice and say, ‘God bless.’ They aren’t willing to be your friend on a deeper level.”]

Mystika: In the beginning, when I first came to Dry Bones, I was a wreck. I was depressed, alone, angry, enraged, withdrawn, and addicted. After coming around the people of Dry Bones, I started little by little to love myself. By loving myself, I was able to open myself up to trust people and let myself be helped. I was able to come back to God after I had doubted Him for so long. Without you guys, I wouldn’t have made it this far…I really mean that.”

You guys are loving and caring. You are God’s angels to bring His lost ones home.

Interview with JC and Carol

April 2, 2008 | By | No Comments

Nikki: Carol, tell me your story:
Carol: I have an older brother, then we were adopted out. We were adopted out by a couple from Texas that adopted both me and my brother. My brother messed up and went to prison. I got married and had two kids. My husband was very abusive. I left him, came here. So that’s my life.

Nikki: Why did you come to Denver?
Carol: I fled. My husband beat me up really bad, and I left at two o’clock in the morning with my kids. I came to Denver because that is where my adoptive parents were. We still talk every now and then.

Nikki: What about you J.C.? What is your story?
J.C.: I’ve lived in Denver my whole life. I went through the 11 ½ grade. If I had busted my butt for the last four months, I would have graduated.
I have a brother and two kids and my parents live here. My kids live with my parents, so I see my kids.

I want to see my kids when they are 21; I want to see their kids. I don’t want to give up. Life’s too short to just give up and roll over.

So we’re trying. Both of us want our kids back eventually, but they are in a better place than I can give them right now.

Nikki: Do you have a good relationship with your parents?
J.C.: Kind of. I guess. …They would rather me do better than what I’ve accomplished in life.

Nikki: Where did your story lead you to being homeless?
J.C.: I was told to get a job or get out when I was 18. So I traveled a lot, decided to come back home, met Carol.

I traveled to Georgia, all up the South, pretty much anywhere warm. If it was cold, I wasn’t going. So – like Georgia, Florida, Louisiana.

Nikki: Were you homeless there?
J.C.: Yes, but that was not a good time in my life. I made a lot of mistakes. But when you’re young you make mistakes. If I had listened to my parents and never went to Georgia, I would have been safer staying here. I came back here with a felony and was homeless. I lost everything in Georgia. I picked up a record there.

Nikki: How does a felony affect your life?
J.C.: It’s hard. Like a lot of businesses do background checks, and when it pops up they start looking at you different – like, “Why didn’t you tell us? Because I don’t tell anyone!” It’s nobody’s business. I like companies who don’t ask and I don’t tell.

Nikki: How about you, Carol – how did your story lead to homelessness?
Carol: I came to Denver and saw a lot of street kids on the streets and I took them back to my place and started housing them. The street kids that were staying at my place stole over $2,000 from me. That is what I was going to use to pay my rent. My next-door neighbor called the cops and the cops were being really rude and said, “Do you have a permit for running a shelter?” And I said, “I’m not running a shelter, you know, they are just staying with me for a couple of days. They are trying to get back on their feet.” And they saw my kids, and social services were called, and they said that my kids were not in a safe place because I had all of these street kids with me and they didn’t know if they were mass murderers or something.

I became homeless after they took my kids. They kicked me out of my apartment. I lost my kids. I lost everything. So I just gave up for a little bit.

Nikki: What is it like to be homeless? Describe the street life.
J.C.: Cold. The police mess with you.

Carol: You don’t sleep.

J.C.: You really don’t get much sleep.

Carol: …I’m worried about who’s going to take my shoes; who’s going to take my stuff? Am I going to wake up to the cops holding their guns out at me? So you really don’t sleep.

J.C.: It’s scary. It’s dirty.

Carol: It’s hard; it’s rough. You have to worry about the cops messing with you during the day.

J.C.: …Messing with you at night. You have to worry about the cops pretty much all of the time.

Carol: There’s some good things about it because you know you have your freedom.

J.C.: I can go anywhere every day. I like being free. My soul feels so much better when I’m free. I’m just a free spirit I guess. I’ll go anywhere in a second. They call that bi-polar though. Seriously though, I’ve been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder for that very reason. Because my mom couldn’t figure out why I could be distracted so easily.

Nikki: What are you looking for when you are looking for a place to sleep?
J.C.: Anything that blocks wind, the weather, the elements, the cops.

We used to squat down on Broadway so we got to know the cops really good. They were good – district four has some good policeman. District six, I understand why they aren’t so nice, but district four, they were good about letting us sleep where we had to sleep. They didn’t mess with us unless you were like starting stuff with people.

Carol: They used to let us sleep on the grates outside of the city courthouse because of the heat that came up from the grates. You would stay warm. If it snowed you wouldn’t be able to feel the snow because of the heat rising up from your sleeping bag or your tent. Him and I had a tent that we put up on the grates in the snow. They are uncomfortable because they were metal, but you could put cardboard over them.

J.C.: That was one place you could sleep and not get messed with because they had an all night security guard that would walk around the building. The city would let us sleep there, but there got to be a lot of homeless sleeping there. A lot. So they had to kick us off. I think that is why they don’t like the homeless here. Some of the homeless are kind of rude; they don’t care about nobody.

Carol: But we used to wake up to a really rude security guard. Every morning he would kick us to wake us up. Literally kick us. He would yell, “Get up! Time to get up!” He didn’t have to kick us. He could have just told us nicely to get up, but…

Nikki: What are people’s reactions that you’ve seen towards the homeless?
Carol: There are always the people that will lend a helping hand. Then you have the people who will tell you to get a job or to “F-off” and they are just rude.

J.C.: They don’t even give you the time of day. They act like they don’t hear you.

Carol: They just look at you like you are a piece of trash – like they are better than us.

Nikki: How does that make you feel?
Carol: I don’t care what they think. The way I see it is that if you help out somebody, it will come back to you ten fold. It’s like last night, this lady came up to me. She had a black eye and a busted lip. Her husband had just beat her. She asked me if I had any change. I gave her all the money I had. I said, “This is all the money I have. Good luck. I hope you get to where you are going.”

I just don’t see why people have got to look down on us. Sometimes I see where they are coming from. “Get a job,” but it’s kind of hard when you have felonies to get a job.

J.C.: And when you sleep outside, that’s another thing that makes it hard to get a job. They think it’s so easy to get off of the streets, but all the shelters…you’re too scared to go to because people rob you there. I would rather take my chances outside.

Nikki: What do you see for your future?
J.C.: Hopefully off of the streets, hopefully have my kids back. Hopefully with Carol as long as she stays with me. …She’s doing more than I’m doing.

Nikki: What kind of role has church played in your life in the past?
Carol: I was raised in church because my dad was the minister at the local Church of Christ. So, we were forced to go to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. When I got married I fled away from church, but I have come back since then. My dad was just really really rough on me, you know, “Go upstairs and read your Bible and get ready for church.” He wouldn’t let me go out with my friends because I needed to be reading my Bible. He was just really hard and I was really rebellious.

Nikki: How did the church respond to your divorce?
Carol: Well, they kind of looked down on me because I was divorced and a single mother. They looked down on me and were talking about me behind my back, so my dad resigned and went to Oklahoma. That’s one of the reasons why I fled because they were judging me and I was like, “Who are you to judge, when you are preaching about don’t judge? Let God judge.” So I think that is why I left church for a little bit.

Nikki: What do relationships mean to you?
Carol: It depends on the person. Like with me, I’m a people person. I love to help out people and talk to people. A friendship relationship is cool. But the relationship that J.C. and I have, I’m just happy in it no matter what. So, relationships mean a lot to me because I didn’t get that when I was little. Relationships help me cope.

J.C.: I would be lost without them. Some of these people I’ve known for 10 years. They are good people. Carol’s been with me for a minute. I don’t know what I would do without her. I would just get frustrated.

Nikki: Is it hard to develop trust in people?
Carol: Yeah, it is!

Nikki: Do you remember the first time you met Dry Bones?
Carol: About two years ago. My friend had told me, “Look, there’s this church group that feeds you and does fun stuff on Thursday nights. This is when y’all were feeding down by the Platte River. I just saw a lot of people that were willing to help. And I saw street kids that were actually happy. That’s the first time I met Dry Bones. I just started coming around more and more and more after that.

J.C.: I started coming to play pool. That’s where I first met you guys.

Nikki: What does having a relationship with an organization like Dry Bones mean to you?
J.C.: You guys brought me back to my belief.

Carol: It shows that somebody’s actually out there that cares and that wants to help and not just mess with our heads. Some people say, “Oh yeah, we can help you,” and then help us for a little bit, and then whenever we turn a certain age, they give up on us.

Nikki: What are your views on God and your relationship with Him? How have you seen Him work in your life?
Carol: I just think He’s awesome!

J.C.: He’ll burn you if you do dirty, I’ll tell you that!

Carol: I’ve seen him work through my three-year-old son. He was supposed to be dead, but now he’s off of his feeding tubes and he’s walking. He was never supposed to walk or feed himself. He was suppose to be fed by tubes and go to the bathroom with tubes and be a paraplegic for the rest of his life. My family and I were just praying. Then about a month ago, my son’s caseworker called me and said that my son was off of the tubes. He’s walking and talking and very healthy. So, that’s how I’ve seen God work.

J.C.: God helped me get clean. Cause that was not easy!

Carol: Getting clean. Praying to God almost every night and going to church.

J.C.: I’ve seen Him a lot. The more I go to church, the better my life is getting. But once I do mess up, it comes back to bite me.

Carol: We have a choice to listen to what God wants or to shrug and flick Him off our shoulder. I see that He’s a caring Father and that He wants us to do right. I mean, if we pray for something, He might not give it to us right away. He might give it to us in little portions. When He sees that we are doing something right, I think that He is just going to explode and give it to you right there.

Nikki: How have you seen God work on the streets?
Carol: Down by the Platte River with my street brother and J.C. My street brother had swallowed a very hot crack pipe. It almost killed him. Now all he talks about is God, because he says that God saved his life.

J.C.: God saved his life, seriously.

Carol: It went scalding straight down his throat. Made his throat swell up. They had to put him on a breathing tube. He says that God was showing him that this is not the life I want for you. And now, he just walks around and talks to people about God. God works wonders through people.

Nikki: Is there anything that you would want the people to hear?
J.C.: We’re not different.

Carol: Yeah, we’re not different and don’t look down on us. We’re trying, it just takes us a little bit longer and it’s harder.

J.C. I know that I’ve done things to myself to get me into this situation.

Carol: We’ve made mistakes and served our time and now we are just trying to make a life. When people look down on us, it just makes us want to give up sometimes.

Nikki: Anything else you want to say?
J.C.: Go Dry Bones! You guys rock. It’s good to know I actually got some people who care. Not all of these organizations care. So it’s good to know that you are there. I want to tell everyone out there, that Dry Bones is really good folks. I’ve good friends here.

I found out how much you cared for me just the other day when Robbie came to check on me. He came just to see me and talk to me for a little bit. It was just awesome. I deeply appreciate that you guys truly care. Y’all sincerely care. Y’all are good people.

View a 2010 interview with JC (Nick) and Carol HERE.