JohnFormerly homeless himself, today John is an Outreach Specialist at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. He's helping save lives every day.
Called to save lives, starting with his own
One day, John was standing outside Third Avenue, intoxicated and under the influence of other substances. Suddenly, a man ran into the street, right in front of a bus. John didn’t stop to think about what he was about to do. “I ran out and pulled him away before he got hit,” says John. “I really didn’t think about it. I just didn’t want to see anybody get run over by a bus.”
Today, John is an Outreach Specialist at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, still helping to save lives every day. “It’s a job that I really look upon as more than a job. I am the resource man, able to help people with hopefully anything . . .”
A decades-long cycle
John has come a long way since he came to the Mission. In his early teens, he fell into a life of partying, which led to alcohol, cocaine, and homelessness. “Everybody talked about this big wooded area where people camped,” John recalls. “It was called the Jungle.” ‘The Jungle’ was an encampment that stretched for three miles in a wooded green belt along I-5 . . . and it was considered the most dangerous place in Seattle.
Life on the streets
“Being homeless, it’s a constant ‘now’ sort of feeling,” says John. “There’s really no future to think about. If kind individuals are coming, handing out supplies, take what you can now because there’s no guarantee you’re going to have it in the future.
“You may have to go one place to eat, another place to shower, another place for searching for employment or seeking out services like public assistance,” John continues.
“It’s just a constant running around, and it takes a toll on you, not only physically but emotionally. Because you’re living just to survive. You’re on the edge all the time, wondering if anything will happen to you in terms of safety.”
“You've got too much to offer”
Living in the Jungle, John used to come to the Mission to get something to eat. “I had seen that there was a recovery program, but I didn’t pay much attention to it,” John recalls. But God kept nudging him. One of the people he associated with told John, “You’ve got too much to offer. You shouldn’t be out here with us.” Then one night, John ended up drinking too much and decided he had had enough. “I just walked down to the Mission,” John says. “The first thing the Mission offered me was a place to relax and take an account of where I was and what I needed. Most importantly, they met my needs. The, program saved my life. It’s God behind it all. God used certain people to really help me.”
John has been clean and sober for over eight years now. And he shares his story as “living proof” that anyone can change . . . no matter how long it might take.
“You should never give up on somebody,” says John. “Everybody has their time. Everybody has to reach a point where they want help. How long do you give them? The answer to that is as long as it takes. When God is ready, He will make it happen.
“The first thing the Mission offered me was a place to relax and take an account of where I was. Most importantly, they met my needs.”