Anthony Finds Peace at Earl’s Place

You can often find Anthony sitting in our garden enjoying a cup of coffee and his pipe.   Anthony arrived at Earl’s Place about two months ago.  As with the other men, he is not what we often think of as the stereotypical homeless person.  Anthony’s journey toward recovery consists of both many sober years as well as many relapses. Today he is clean and says he has peace of mind.  “I came back to recovery after I relapsed because at the end of the day I know it’s the right place for me to be,” said Anthony. “So I try, and will again and again.”

In the beginning

When he was 16 Anthony left home and fell into a cycle of alcoholism, stealing and panhandling.

When he was 22 a friend took him to the Salvation Army.  He was able to stay sober for 15 years; during that time he built a life for himself.  Then he fell into relapse and lost everything; his family, his employment and his housing.

“I try and try again”

Eventually, wanting to become stable again, he returned to recovery. He was able to gain the trust of the staff at the shelter where he was staying and was later hired as a peace keeper.  He remained there for eight months until he relapsed. He was fired and asked to leave the program and once again he became homeless, living on the streets.

Anthony knew his drinking problem and unstable life style were not healthy for him. “I get physically ill when I’m drunk.  It will make me feel like I am going to die. But stress makes me want alcohol. Then alcohol makes me depressed and my depression makes me suicidal.”

Recognizing this brings Anthony back to recovery.  He says, “I come back to recovery after I relapse because at the end of the day I know it’s the right place for me to be. So I try again and again”

A safe place to come back to

Anthony says he is very happy to be at Earl’s Place, “I use to be afraid going outside. I really disliked being on the streets and seeing the crime and homelessness that happens out there. It’s just nice to have a safe place to come back to. A place to de-stress.”

“The guys here will listen to me when I am angry. When I want to go somewhere with someone, there is always someone available when I ask. It keeps me alive.”

“I don’t feel so lonely here. I got someone to talk to.”

Into the future

“I’ve been to many different kinds of recovery programs but I didn’t understand why I should follow the rules,” said Anthony, “Now, I am trying to listen and follow suggestions.  I attend (Alcoholic Anonymous) meetings, connect with friends and see a therapist. […] I really appreciate the structure Earl’s Place brings. The structure is relaxing because everybody knows the rules and are doing what they are supposed to do.”

Anthony hopes to focus on his health and saving for his retirement as he makes plans for his future after Earl’s Place.

We look forward to walking with him on his journey!

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46 Applications and Success!

  

 As staff of Earl’s Place, we witness many challenges our clients face in the process in obtaining a job. Getting hired requires more than a good resume, a recommendation and a nice suit. It takes perserverence through rejections and a strong belief in one’s ability to make it to the end.

Renard came to Earl’s Place last August knowing that he wanted to focus on getting a job. “The desire to have a new way of life and to be able to live on life’s terms keeps me motivated to stay in recovery,” said Renard. “The process to find a place that will hire me was very hard. Some people will tell you to come even when they are not interested in hiring you at all. It was frustrating when I knew I was very capable of doing the job. But I learned to accept that this is a process and that I am not going to get anywhere if I didn’t go through it. I had to trust that if I play my part, God will take care of the rest.”

As he waited for 11 months, Renard kept himself busy. Every Wednesday, you will find Renard volunteering at a local soup kitchen cleaning or cooking. He voluntarily takes care of many things around Earl’s Place, from organizing incoming donations to watering the garden.  He even cooks for many of the residents of Earl’s Place when they bring him ingredients for a dish they want to eat and then share the meal together. “I like to keep myself busy and have a good pattern in my life. It keeps me focused and optimistic about the future.” says Renard.

“Renard is one strong individual,” said Jim Carey, case manager of Earl’s Place. “Many residents are easily disillusioned after a few rejections or negative responses from job applications, but Renard always came back and tried again and again.”

“It’s all about acceptance. I learned a lot about how it’s important to accept that there are some things I have to do to live in this world. That was a hard lesson to learn because when you are living on the streets you are used to doing things only your way, not the world’s way. I learned that to live on life’s terms I have to become more responsible and learn how to take care of myself.”

“Earl’s Place provides me the care that grounds me and a place where I could have peace of mind. I am really blessed to be here. I would love to be here longer if I can.”

After five different job training programs and 46 applications, today we celebrate Renard’s good news as the fruits of his hard work. Renard is such a good worker his hours have already increased. Congratulations Renard!

Here is a video of Renard inviting you to Vitural Tour to Earl’s Place!
You will meet some of our residents, our blooming garden, our house cat, Sophie, and above all, a place your support continues.Thank you always for your support!

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Carl’s Shoe Box

One of the main reasons many of the residents of Earl’s Place say they are in the recovery process is so that they can be a better father and grandfather to their family.

As part of the Monkey on Our Backs project, residents of Earl’s Place were asked  to create a self-portrait diorama as a medium to tell their life stories. Carl’s expressed his feelings about being a father.

“Carl Stewart’s box is rather minimalistic.  In the shoe box he has merely a framed note declaring that he was not the Father his daughter, Genie, needed.  “Money didn’t make me no Father”, Carl laments.  He feels he was not there for guidance and quality time — the Little Things.  “I was not there to do that… I was off on my own race — easier to give her money and not explain it.  Money was like a babysitter, pay you off — less time to listen to her.”  It is this sentiment which Carl regrets and a “decision you live with, sooner or later”.  It is the essence of Carl’s box; and it emanates sincerely from his heart.”

Honor the special man (men) in your life and give a homeless grandfather or father a chance to begin a new life by donating to Earl’s Place this Father’s Day. You may give a gift in honor or in memory of someone; we will send  personalized card  in the mail or on-line (as appropriate) to let your loved one know of your transformational gift. Celebrate all fathers – every donation makes a difference.

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14 days left!

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“No homeless person need ever be __________”

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by Aletheia Shin, LVC participant

How would you fill in this blank? This is a question Ray, now a past resident at Earl’s Place, asked me a few weeks ago and I have thought of so many possibilities….

What if we could fill in the blank with the word homeless? No homeless person need ever be homeless. 

Ray expressed how it is hard to be aware of the resources that are available when one is on the street. Ray was homeless and a drug addict who experienced several attempts to get clean and sober. “My life was full of chaos with no structure. I knew I needed help, but I had no idea of where I could turn for help.” He began attending Narcotic Anonymous meetings (NA) where he found support and information on possible programs that could help him begin his recovery. He first heard about Earl’s Place in an NA meeting through Sammy, another graduate of Earl’s Place. Ray applied right away and entered a temporary shelter as he waited for an opening. After several months of waiting he was able to move into Earl’s Place.

A home makes a difference

“If drugs brought chaos in my life, Earl’s Place brought me serenity. It makes a difference to have a place to come back to everyday that is a supportive environment. When you are homeless you are in a survival mode. It makes it impossible for you to dream and think about future plans. When you’re in a survival mode your main concern is only to survive every day.

One of the best practices I learned while at Earl’s Place is the importance of writing my goals or plans on paper. I have a calendar that I keep and write my plans on. I was looking back over the one I had last year and I realized, exactly one year ago, I had written that I wanted to move to Micah House next. Exactly one year later, I signed a lease with Micah House. That is a confirmation of the value of a calendar and the evidence of the power of prayer.”

Walking on the road of recovery together

During Ray’s last house meeting with us he said, “I have changed a lot through this program and everyone added to my recovery process.  NA meetings are great, but you only see people once a week. At Earl’s Place, you live together and you  see each other every day. People see you and know if you are really walking the talk or not. Earl’s Place helped me build the foundation I needed for me to move forward in this journey of my recovery process.”

Ray began his next stage of life in February when he moved to Micah House, a permanent housing program. “I had mixed emotions about leaving Earl’s Place, but it felt good to put my name on a lease and pay my security deposit. This reinforces for me that I have developed responsibility. I am stable in my recovery and I have a place to live for the next year. I am grateful to everyone who has touched my life and I know that to remain successful I just have to continue to live as I have been.  I came to Earl’s Place in need of stability and recovery; today I have both.”

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Cycling through Life

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Greetings,

I’ve been asked to give a brief description of my life up to the present.  I surely don’t want to bore you with a plethora of unnecessary details so I’m going to say what I’ve learned through Alcoholics Anonymous.  When we speak at meetings we are asked to tell what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now.

What It Was Like
I grew up in Virginia, for the most part. as we moved frequently due to my father’s vocation as a career Naval Officer (California, Virginia Beach, VA, four places in South Carolina, Boston, MA, Washington, DC and back to Norfolk VA where I completed school and college).   I graduated from ODU in 1982 with a BS in Psychology.

During high school drinking beer on weekends was an expected behavior of anyone in the crowd that I chose to be a member of.  By the age of 16 I was dealing pounds of pot a week, all by the ounce, and my base clientele was growing exponentially.  I, luckily or unluckily, had great connections and access to drug suppliers through my three older sister’s friends and acquaintances.  My parents were aware that I drank and smoked pot, but they looked the other way as long as my grade point average remained at the Honor Roll level.  School was never a challenge for me and I was on the Honor Roll or Dean’s list throughout high school and college. 

My senior year in high school was the year I began to notice the beginnings of physical dependency and an emotional need for the effects of alcohol.  For four-and- a -half years in college I fought the desire to drink throughout the day.  I was tortured daily by hangovers and the overwhelming obsession to drink.  I would not and did not drink during the day throughout my college years.  I looked forward to graduation day as the release from the responsibilities that being in college entailed.  I was managing two night clubs (for a family friend) and we were planning to open a third.  Drinking at work was overlooked and probably expected.  Upon graduation from college I could drink and work in the same place practically 24-hours a day. 

What Happened

After college I immediately began drinking 24 hours a day. 

By graduation I knew I was an alcoholic.   I relaxed into it and continued to pick career/employment opportunities according to their conduciveness to my constant alcohol intake.  As with many other alcoholics I tended to relocate often in order to “start over” with a clean slate and new friends, etc.

Over the years I have lived in Virginia; the Outer Banks of North Carolina; Florida; New York City; Princeton; New Jersey; Los Angeles, California; Puerto Rico; Mexico City, Mexico; Lexington, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee; and Hawaii.  I loved traveling and all of the adventures, but in the end I always brought my worst problem along – me. 

By the way, I was admitted to hospitals and detoxes in every city and state I lived in; most of the time for alcohol overdose and chronic alcoholism. Throughout my years of hard drinking I was also very much into surfing and bicycling.  Along with my favorite sports came a blessing in disguise – a very healthy appetite.  I’ve been told repeatedly that my eating habits have saved my life and health to date.  Most chronic alcoholics tend to concentrate on their intake of alcohol; food only when direly necessary.

I was saved from serious long term bodily harm, but the emotional, financial and spiritual damage is immeasurable.

While living in Hawaii on the island of Maui, I became partners in a small pawn shop.  I thrived in this business and drank and spent money accordingly.  Drinking ruins my decision making abilities and it did so as I greedily made high interest (illegal) non-collateral loans.  Under the influence of alcohol I decided to be my own collection agency and accumulated five felony charges; terroristic threatening and burglary.  Unbeknownst to me, if you commit a felony crime on someone else’s property it is called burglary.  I despise thieves and abhor the term burglar because it illicits the idea that I broke into someone’s property with the intent of stealing something that was not mine.  I was after my money and the profit I should have made on it.  Needless to say I received a long prison sentence and a new title to add to my name; FELON.  For many months before this incident and my arrest I had a fervent daily prayer: 

God, relieve of my alcoholism
and give me an alcohol-free environment
 with work that will keep my mind occupied and off of alcohol.

I remembered people in church saying be careful what you pray for-be specific.  In prison I was in a relatively alcohol-free environment and worked six days a week in the administration office processing requisitions and purchase orders or teaching GED classes.  My prayers had been answered, but not exactly according to the way I would have preferred.

What it is Like Now

Post prison life has been good to me, but I can’t say I have been good to myself. 

Although I have attended AA meetings and churches on a regular basis, alcoholism has reared its ugly head repeatedly.  My drinking patterns were changed from daily to periodic and, over the years, to greater lengths between bouts.  The length between the binges however has not lessened the all consuming destruction that alcohol causes in my life. 

I have sisters in Potomac and Westminster and I decided to make yet another geographic relocation from Key Largo to the greater Baltimore area. I stayed in Potomac for a few months and helped my sister redecorate her house.  My job search there was basically fruitless and I didn’t like the area that much so I migrated to Baltimore City.

I knew that in order for me to get any long term sobriety I would have to live in a structured environment.  Via the computer I found a sober living company here in Baltimore that had 11 houses.  I moved into a house in Canton and was immediately disgusted with what I thought was going to be such a good move.  I won’t go into detail about the overcrowding and the inherent problems; this supposedly State approved sober living environment was obviously a money generating machine and nothing else. 

I shared my thoughts on this program at an AA meeting and was told about Earl’s Place.  I immediately called and made an appointment with Sheila.  Unlike the other place, there was a long waiting list to get in.  I filled out all the forms and set my mind to getting in or else. 

While I waited, I left Baltimore and went to stay with my sister in Westminster.  She and her husband were more than willing to help me until I received the call from Earl’s Place.  I searched through the computer for employment and was amazed at the amount of jobs in the restaurant business; practically none.  I was lucky though and landed a job as a server (waiter) in the best fine dining restaurant in Maryland.  It just so happened to be close by in Taneytown.  My sister was happy to drive me to work because it was near their home and she was familiar with the area as her husband is a systems designer and works for a company in Taneytown. 

With everything else going my way and a job that I enjoyed one would envision a happily ever after scenario…not so for an alcoholic.  Alcoholism reared up and claimed me again, this time taking my living arrangements and my job as trophies.  My sister asked me to leave (in a loving way) and I could no longer work because I broke my nose and gained some beautiful “embroidery” (stitches) across my face and although I was not asked to leave my employment, I took an extended leave of absence.

After my release from detox at Bay View/ Johns Hopkins Hospital, I quickly found a Rescue Mission in Westminster.  I signed myself in and made myself at home amongst my fellow outcasts and addiction afflicted people.  I could write a book on my month-and-a- half stay at the mission…another day. 

My sister received the call from Earl’s Place that a space was available and relayed the message to me.  My dear sister came and collected me and as fast as she could deposited me in downtown Baltimore at Earl’s Place. 

I was and still am excited about being at Earl’s Place.  I definitely need the structure in my life at this time.  After arriving I interviewed and signed up for aftercare (ongoing outpatient treatment) at Powell Recovery just a few blocks away.  During the first 90 days at Earl’s Place you are required to attend an AA meeting every day-we also have house meetings.  I attend aftercare two days a week and I volunteer at the local Lutheran Mission Society (LMS) full time while I am seeking employment.  After over two months of volunteering at the LMS in Fells Point I have been recommended for a paid position within the church.  I’ve also been helping with The Supper Club at First United Evangelical United Church of Christ in Fells Point every Wednesday night.  I’ve kept myself very busy and time has flown by, on the fifth of March I will have been at Earl’s Place for three months.  I have been and am presently sober with a very positive outlook on the future.

I seriously doubt that I would have been capable of maintaining my sobriety and progressing in such a positive way without the stability, care and guidance that Earl’s Place has provided me up to this point.  I hope someday to be able to give back some of what I have been given so freely.  Updates forthcoming. 

J.P. Smith

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Earl’s Place Board Member Spotlight: David Schwartz

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What drew me to Earl’s Place originally was learning that there was a need I could fulfill: I have been training people, particularly about using technology, for a number of years, and I learned that there were men at Earl’s Place who had never been online. These days it is nearly impossible to find employment and take care of other issues without access to the Internet, and one can hardly go more than a few days without having to provide someone an email address.  There was a definite interest among the men, so I began tutoring on a roughly biweekly basis.  

I remember walking into Earl’s Place for the first time, wondering what it would be like. The word “shelter” conjured for me rows of army cots, so I was pleasantly surprised that it felt like a home, with individual rooms, outfitted by the residents to be their own. Nothing about Earl’s Place felt institutional. The word “homeless” also conjured a certain picture of what the men would be like, and again I was surprised to find the people I met open, honest, and charming.

One of the first residents I helped get online was a man named Kevin. He had never used a computer before. I will always remember our first session. While I entered information to start an email account for him, he told me about his time in prison, and in particular that he had not been able to read when he arrived there. He had taken a bundle of newspapers that had been used for weightlifting, opened it up, and over the course of months taught himself to read. I was impressed with his drive.

As I showed Kevin a tiny slice of what was available on the Internet, he had a question about whether there would be information online about one of the largest flowers in the world, Titan Arum, about which he had recently seen a television show. He had a doubting friend, and wanted to show him that the plant was real. It did not take long to find a web site with the flower, and Kevin wanted me to print some of the information, which I did. We found another site and he wanted me to print more. And again. As the printed pages began to add up, I could see Kevin realize that he had just tapped into a huge well of knowledge about the world. It was a thrill to be there with him as he discovered the Internet. By the time he graduated from Earl’s Place he had his own laptop and was continuing with his avid interests.

More recently, I had an experience with Leon, a father and recovering addict who had never to that point been online. As I was showing him around the web, he mentioned that he had a son overseas who played professional basketball, and he wondered if there would be anything out there about his son. Within a couple of minutes we were looking at photos and statistics of his son, not only recent ones, but from college, and I could see how moved Leon was to have access. Again I was thrilled to be there then. Over the course of some weeks he got more involved online, got a Facebook account, and began connecting online with family and old friends.  As isolation is a key piece o addiction, being able to connect with people online can help people to maintain healthy connections, and Leon certainly seemed to benefit from it.

Those are the kinds of encounters that hooked me: being able to assist with useful skills and being present as the world suddenly expanded for another person. What keeps me coming back, working on the Board, donating, is the feeling of hope and success at Earl’s Place. The men are working hard at rebuilding their lives, and they are for the greatest part succeeding with the help of a small but thoroughly dedicated staff. The men believe in themselves, and they are making enormous and positive changes in their lives. The energy inside this small community of men is powerful, and being involved with it is fulfilling and rejuvenating. Isn’t it time for you to take that plunge?

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