A Door Opens – Calvin’s Story, Part 2

“Something happens to a man who has nowhere to call home. Everyone treats him like dirt, and he begins to believe them.”

After more than a decade of crack addiction, for the first time, Calvin did not know where he was going to sleep at night. There was no more money for rent. There were no more couches to crash. He went to the Salvation Army for shelter and unofficially gave himself a year and a half to get housed and sober.

Being homeless gave Calvin new perspective. He realized, “The longer you’re out there, the more your mind deteriorates. You don’t care anymore. You just give up hope. Something happens to a man who has nowhere to call home. Everyone treats him like dirt, and he begins to believe them.”

During this period, Calvin began to “look forward,” instead of dwelling on his past. He remained active in the community as a volunteer to stay positive and keep himself busy. He applied to multiple housing programs. Most of all, he quit using crack–for good.

Then a door opened. One weekend, Calvin volunteered to set up tents for a children’s camp near Lake Superior. He welcomed the good food, clean bed, and fresh air. When he returned to the Salvation Army, he was told a woman named Rachel was looking for him.

Calvin contacted Rachel, who told him she had a place for him in OSH’s Permanent Supportive Housing Program. The Salvation Army had referred him, and she needed to do an intake. Calvin remembers that Rachel came to meet him in the evening, well after normal work hours. He appreciated that she was kind and treated him, “like a regular guy.” From there, Calvin began to call Rachel every day. He says she never seemed bothered by his constant questions and happily gave him updates.

Within three weeks, Rachel called. She found an apartment! It was spacious with large windows and hardwood floors. Calvin couldn’t believe it! True to his original goal, after a year and a half on the streets, Calvin could go home.

The property owner postponed the move-in date twice; he had to find someone to clean the apartment. Calvin volunteered, citing his background in housekeeping and maintenance. The property owner agreed, and Calvin got to work. He painted, scrubbed, and cleaned all night. This time, the only thing fueling him was gratitude and hope.

Today, Calvin remains housed in the same apartment he moved into on July 19, 2010. He’s regained pieces of his old self, such as his love of cooking, and has also discovered a few new hobbies, like fishing and bicycle repair. He continues his volunteer work, which helped sustain him through even the worst of his addiction.

Due to his past lifestyle, Calvin now lives with a degenerative spinal condition that leaves him unable to work. He keeps regular appointments for pain management and visits Our Saviour’s Housing frequently for no-cost acupuncture and massage sessions. He exercises daily and especially enjoys bike rides. He is determined to manage his pain without using drugs of any kind.

One of the greatest joys of recovery has been rebuilding relationships with family members. Recently, Calvin reveals, his brother said words he never though he’d hear: “Welcome back, man. I’ve got my big brother back.”

Now that he’s come out on the other side, Calvin uses his experience to encourage others who feel stuck in the downward spiral of drugs. He wants those living without hope to know that circumstances can get better with a little help along the way. He’s living proof.