Our Saviour’s Housing is known as a place for second chances, and that’s exactly what Johnnie was hoping to find when he arrived at our shelter.
Originally from Milwaukee, Johnnie was raised by his mother after his father left when Johnnie was young. As he approached his teenage years, Johnnie says he struggled with not having a stable father figure in his life. He turned to the streets to rebel and find friendship. Instead, he found trouble, which eventually put him in prison.
Johnnie moved to Minnesota after he completed his sentence. Once he got here, however, Johnnie found that it wasn’t so easy to make a fresh start. Even though he’s served his time, his past mistakes continue to haunt him. Necessities like stable employment and housing are hard to find; no one wants to hire or rent to someone with a criminal background. In addition, Johnnie never went to trade school to learn a marketable skill because he was locked up. Despite these challenges, Johnnie is determined now to stay on the right side of the law. “I’m fighting going back to [crime]. Even though I’m kind of desperate, and I need a place to live, and I need my car fixed.”
While Johnnie figures out his next steps, Our Saviour’s meets Johnnie’s most immediate need for shelter. “Our Saviour’s is the best facility I’ve been to. They make you get up. You have to go look for work, school, something. When you come back, you can have a shower, use the free phone. That’s a blessing – a clean, safe environment. There are a lot of resources here.”
Although it’s easy to feel discouraged, one thing makes Johnnie’s eyes light up with hope: stopping kids from making the same mistakes he did. “I want to reach those kids on the [same] road [I was on] and say, ‘Hey man, look where what you’re doing got me. I have nothing. If I could go back to your age, I’d go to school and get a trade. I’d be able to have whatever I want if I could go back. But I can’t.’ That’s what I want to do, be a public speaker and mentor.” Johnnie currently mentors a young man and also volunteers four days a week at a local youth organization.
Above all, Johnnie values the time and resources that OSH offers him, as well as the staff who are willing to help him with whatever he needs. With their support, Johnnie says he simply wants to, “focus on the positive things in me [and] turn the page, start a new chapter.”