Vince was 16 when the unthinkable happened.
At an age when most kids are learning to drive and scaring their parents, he was mourning the loss of his own. It was that fateful year that Vince’s father killed his mother and turned the gun on himself.
“My mother went to serve my father with divorce papers, and he didn’t take the news well,” Vince said. “He shot my mom three times and then walked to the end of the driveway and shot himself.”
After the death of his parents, Vince found himself floating: first to his grandmother’s house in Macon, Georgia; then to a boarding school in Colorado Springs; and later into homelessness.
A rough start
He was born in 1981, the only son in a family that had adopted New Jersey as their home and Islam and their religion. His father was a “perpetually unemployed” Golden Gloves boxer. His mother was an AT&T employee with a southern drawl.
The cycle of abuse in Vince’s family began early, and his first memories are ones of violence and confusion.
“My first real memory is of my father dumping a whole plate of spaghetti on my mother,” he said. “Things just got worse from there. … My father hit my mother, and my mother hit me.”
Things calmed down for a while after the family moved to Colorado and parents separated. But the cycle of abuse wasn’t over, and it came to a head in 1998 with a murder-suicide.
“It felt like there was no way to get justice for any of it,” Vince said. “I felt like I had nothing and nobody.”
After the devastating loss of his parents, Vince went to live with his maternal grandmother in Macon. But things didn’t go well and she sent him to attend Colorado Springs School, where he remained until he turned 18 and graduated.
“After I graduated CSS, I figured I should go to college,” he said. “I thought it’s what my mother probably would have wanted.”
After a stint at Colorado College, Vince attended IntelliTec College and earned his network systems administration degree. Life seemed to be coming together. Vince had a good job, owned a home and became an avid runner.
“I walked or ran at least five miles every day,” he said. “Until I couldn’t anymore.”
When Vince suddenly collapsed at work one day, he was diagnosed with advanced multiple sclerosis. At age 25, less than a decade after the death of his parents, he was mourning another loss — that of his health and mobility.
“After I was diagnosed, I tried to keep running,” he said. “But I would just fall on my face.”
Vince fell into depression and his life seemed to crumble around him. He became homeless a few years later and found his way to Springs Rescue Mission in 2018.
A new beginning
He lived in the shelter and participated in Work Engagement for over a year until he was selected for an apartment at Greenway Flats last summer.
“I absolutely like living at Greenway Flats,” he
said. “It’s always better than roughin’ it. I feel independent. I feel like I have everything I need.”
Vince began seeing a therapist and for the first time in his life is dealing with the trauma of his youth — processing years of abuse and the tragic deaths of his parents (he’s even forgiven his father).
“It’s definitely helping now,” he said. “I’m ready to tie up some loose ends.”
Vince now sees a doctor to address his multiple sclerosis and is optimistic about his future.
“Things are starting to come to fruition for me,” he said. “I’m going to the doctor, I’m going to therapy and I’m working on getting disability.”
Vince spends most days shuffling up and down the halls of Greenway Flats behind his walker, looking to entertain with one of his many jokes. It’s something he enjoys, and a gift to passersby in need of a pick-me-up. Despite pain and tragedy, his face rests in a constant smile — his demeanor is one of hope and gratitude.
“I’ve strived to be more positive,” he said. “Every single person I see, I always try to make them laugh or do little things to make people happy. For some people, that’s huge. Helping people brings me joy. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.”
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