Thomas felt overwhelmed his first night at Springs Rescue Mission — but it was the night he started his journey of recovery.
“I wasn’t an experienced homeless person,” he said. “I didn’t know how to do this.”
Thomas grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. As he describes it, the surroundings were Midwestern and idyllic — a great place for a boy to get his start in the world — but it didn’t take long for the family to deteriorate and the dream to begin slowly dying.
By the time Thomas was a teenager, he was living as an adult. He got a job in roofing and set out on his own, eventually marrying and moving to Gloucester, Massachusetts.
In Gloucester, Thomas began doing cocaine. His wife put up with it for a while, but eventually drew a line in the sand and the two separated. He eventually gave up hard drugs, but then turned to whiskey as a substitute.
When life in Gloucester seemed beyond repair, Thomas pursued an opportunity to move to Colorado with his brother. When his brother bailed, Thomas became homeless upon his arrival.
“I knew I would be on the streets as soon as I stepped off the bus,” he said.
Drinking prevented Thomas from working and drove him into isolation. For years, he lived in a tent at a nearby homeless encampment.
“I knew about SRM, but I stayed away,” he said. “I wanted to drink my beers, smoke my cigarettes and do my hustle.”
When the encampment was busted up by the cops in 2017, Thomas finally turned to Springs Rescue Mission for help — eventually realizing there was a better life for him as a sober man.
“I started going to meetings,” he said. “I wanted what they had. That’s when I made my mind up that I was getting out of here.”
Thomas went to 12-step meetings and got sober for the first time in decades. His attitude was improving, along with his outlook on life. He got a job, moved out of the shelter and got into sober living. But when Covid-19 struck in early 2020, meetings were cancelled and work was scarce. And Thomas returned to the bottle for comfort.
“I ended up in a hotel room with two half-gallons of whiskey,” he said. “It took me two or three months to slow down, but something stopped me.”
Thomas returned to the Mission in late 2020. He got back into meetings and surrounded himself with an encouraging community that helped him stay clean. Transformation seemed possible again.
“I knew this was a place I could get help, so I put down the booze and got to work,” he said. “I made my mind up that I was getting out of here.”
Thomas became a model guest. He did laundry for other homeless men and women and in 2021 completed SRM’s four-month Intensive Outpatient Program for addiction recovery.
“I feel so good about myself now,” he said. “I know I’ll be where I want someday. … I just have this feeling that God has big things for me.”
Thomas says that he would one day like to work for the Mission — to help others like himself.
“I either ended up here by chance or I’m here for a reason, and I choose to believe I have a purpose,” he said. “I love the Mission and I want to stay involved with this place. It gives me purpose.”
Thomas is now living in one of Springs Rescue Mission’s housing solutions for sober men and recently began working with the City of Colorado Springs through its WorkCOS program. These days, he zips around on his moped with a smile on his face and has a noticeable bounce in his step.
“I’ve seen a lot of beautiful things that the Lord has done since I’ve worked here,” said shelter manager David, who has known Thomas since he first came to the Mission in 2017. “[Thomas] is one that stands out. … This is a completely different man, and it’s just amazing to watch him continue to grow.”
Consistently provide nutritious meals, a bed and compassionate care for neighbors in need by becoming a Good Samaritan Sponsor today! For just $25 a month, you’ll help transform the life of a homeless man or woman in Colorado Springs.
Visit springsrescuemission.org/gss to learn more.