Mike had a rough childhood: born into poverty and living in subsidized housing, he had seen drugs, violence and abuse. School was no better, with poor marks and no real friends he was “even an outcast from the outcast cliques. I kept making wrong choices and became so discouraged that I stopped caring.”
“I got into drugs way too early,” he recalled. “At 10, I started abusing as an escape, but it forced me to grow up fast. By 13, I was going on 30. Kids at school were bragging about Pokémon cards and I was talking about sleeping in a youth shelter, gangs, violence, drugs, abuse and survival. You lose your innocence.”
Kicked out of the house at 13, he found Lutherwood’s Safe Haven shelter. “Where do you go to be safe when you can’t go home? Where can you get a roof over your head, food, clothing, a shower and support when the rest of the world wants nothing to do with you? The staff are always there, always welcoming. They listen and talk to you when others won’t.”
But there are rules. “One night I returned to Safe Haven high. There were consequences, but they still treated me with respect. In my mind, their attempts to reach out were futile, but they made me question what I was doing, and they were reaching me because they still cared.”
Now, in his twenties, Mike has a healthy perspective on life. Proudly sporting a ponytail and hand tattoos that remind him of his past, he also credits an ex-love for his turnaround. “I stopped using drugs years ago and am sober. Life is not totally peaches, but I have 2 kids, I’m working full time and going for my driver’s license.
He credits Lutherwood’s Employment Services for helping him with his job searching and interview skills, as well as his inspiration for his future. He is self-taught in server administration, has advanced computer skills and wants to help youth. “I want to help kids avoid the life I lived, so I plan to go to college and become a Child and Youth Worker. I have an advantage. I can relate to a drug-addicted child gang member who sleeps on the streets and desperately wants to get out. I didn’t learn it in a textbook - I was there.”
“Not only am I learning new skills, but volunteering is giving me purpose."